Why Most Corp Execs Talk Like Robots
Why do most long and buzz-filled quotes from execs in corporate publicity read like they were written by committees, consultants, or robots (or all three)?
Because they were and, as a result, few people read them and even less believe or remember anything if they do.
Here are five questions that will help make any quote more meaningful and memorable:
First, does it say something that matters to your stakeholders? This means quotes shouldn’t reference back to your branding messaging or the macro trends identified by your management consultants. Is there a need or opportunity for a personal commitment or statement about policy (i.e. something only the exec could say or know, like sharing a personal anecdote that adds color to whatever you’re promoting)? If your quote can’t bring such content to your communication, consider omitting it. Bad quotes are far worse than no quotes.
Second, does it embrace the POV and language of your stakeholders? Buzzwords and jargon should be explicitly off limits. Uber is an IoT engagement platform, but it talks about providing gig jobs and ferrying passengers and stuff. 5G is gloriously technologically advanced but consumers are still searching for reasons why they need it (and not why companies need to sell it). Nobody is trying to “have seamless transactions” in their lives; further, achieving some gigantic, far-off UN SDG goal is about as inspiring as a sneeze. Quotes should be simple and their effect immediate.
Third, does it acknowledge the elephant in the room (and there is always one of some sort)? Such context can be past news, current events, or forecasts…the reality in which your executive quotes will be consumed (usually a far cry from the calm and informed hallways of your office or agency). Better to address the ones that will matter most, whether positive or negative, so they don’t detract from the credibility of your content. Stuff that doesn’t pass a smell test, no matter how brilliantly conceived, still smells bad.
Fourth, does it declare what something means? The old saying at MTV was “if you have to say something’s cool, it’s not,” and that’s still true today; no matter how important your leadership or messaging matrices say references to the IoT, AI, or whatever “wave” of an esoteric industrial trend, it’s your readers, viewers, or listeners who have the authority to make those connections and judgments.
Five, is it short? Today’s tech has conditioned all of us to equate any increase in length with a decrease in relevance, so exec language that involves not just buzzwords but utilizes convoluted grammar and too many words is pretty much DOA. ‘Nuff said.
The key to asking these questions and then collaborating with your leaders to arrive at the best answers starts and ends with telling them the truth and, when they or others push back in fealty to tradition or brand messaging, you need to challenge them.
Today, communicating effectively requires that your content earn the interest, belief, and retention of your stakeholders. Don’t let your leaders be fooled by their own expectations or understanding of how your stakeholders experience media. It’ll make it harder for you to achieve your goals.