Category Archives: Internal Communications

Long Live the “Systematic Buzz Phrase!”

This little gem was a favorite of a veteran college professor. He used it in class to highlight how easy it is to create speeches, presentations, business plans, news announcements and general messages that contain pure nonsense. I thought it was worthy to share.

thThe “Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector” first appeared in 1968 in Newsweek Magazine in an article called “How to Win at Wordsmanship.” A U.S. Public Health official, Philip Broughton, then 63 years old, came up with the idea to show how buzz phrases run rampant in business communications. It is as relevant today as it was then.

Here’s how it works. Thirty popular buzzwords are organized in three columns. To create a perfect-sounding, legitimate buzz phrase—applicable across as many industries as you can think of—simply choose any three-digit combination and select the corresponding word from each column!

For example, 4-9-0 translates to functional policy options!  My lucky numbers 7-7-7 translate to synchronized incremental projection!  

Go ahead, try it!

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3
0. integrated 0. management 0. options
1. total 1. organizational 1. flexibility
2. systematized 2. monitored 2. capability
3. parallel 3. reciprocal 3. mobility
4. functional 4. digital 4. programming
5. responsive 5. logistical 5. concept
6. optional 6. transitional 6. time-phase
7. synchronized 7. incremental 7. projection
8. compatible 8. third-generation 8. hardware
9. balanced 9. policy 9. contingency

I would add a few more words to the column lists—big data, multi-channel, ecosystem, engagement, earned media, owned media, ROI, scalable and viral immediately come to mind.  What are your suggestions?

warroomMy guess is nearly 50 years after the “Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector” debuted, far too many corporate marketing materials, business plans, executive letters and online copy use more buzz phrases than any of us would like. It’s so easy to fall prey to industry jargon, especially when social media and online communications put increasing pressure on timing.  Unfortunately, I’m sure I have been among the guilty.

Abraham Lincoln said of his communications: “I determined to be so clear than no honest man could misunderstand me and no dishonest one could successfully misrepresent me.” He would be horrified to read some business communications today.

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Put on Your Weekend Face! Its Impact on Employee Communications

Once considered less glamorous in the corporate communications repertoire, employee communications has new found respect in the C-suite.

imagesExecutives have consistently informed me of their interest in placing more emphasis on ensuring employees at all levels and locations know the firm’s strategy and direction, important successes, innovations, research, and the list goes on. They realize a common understanding of what drives the organization, shapes its world view and guides its business decisions, will increase the chances of marketplace success. At the same time, they are baffled by how little employees know about their firm’s business beyond their individual responsibility and express weariness over why.

So, I did a little digging and found this…

“A job is something to do in between weekends.”* This is how millennials and generations younger view employment. Whoa!

That mindset, combined with blurry lines between what’s “internal” and what’s “external” (fueled by a 24/7 news cycle), have big implications for how organizations keep an increasingly younger workforce informed.

images-textThe job/weekend mindset

Today’s aspiring workforce grew up living for the weekend. Planned playdates, professionally-run birthday parties, destination weddings are just some of the childhood/young adult norms that reinforce the high value they place on weekend fun.

While hard work is in their DNA, it’s there for a different reason than it was for prior generations—to finish the task at hand and get on with the fun. I see it with my own family members who work in banking and finance. They put in long hours, weekends too. But their weekends are jam-packed with parties, mini-vacations, “tickets” and so much more. “Work hard, play harder” is an apt mantra.

The implications for employee communications are many. Take a page from the popular consumer communications playbook and start with the big “R” for relevance. Don’t waste time on news millennials and generations younger can’t use to do their jobs faster, smarter, or better. They want to know what is relevant to them, now.

Corporate updates from other offices or business units, as important as they are to the organization’s success, will break through only if done in a way that means something to an employee’s individual accountability. So, a company-wide email blast doesn’t cut it. Depending on the goal, treat employee communications as you would a consumer communications campaign. Have clear-cut objectives from the start. Craft a message that resonates. Segment communiques to like-minded groups—management, influencers; sales team, account teams, support staff; etc. Above all, don’t be boring—in content, channel or media.

I once approached an HR exec about rewriting the “employee handbook” into an entertaining guide that imparted all the relevant facts, akin to Virgin Atlantic’s flight safety instructions. I even volunteered to write it! I received a blank stare. Millennials and generations younger want to be entertained when they consume content—even corporate communications. Use videos, images and infographics; and, if you have all the important information available as an app, all the better!

Blurry lines

Thanks to the 24/7 news, citizen journalists and The Rise of Fishbowl Journalism (see prior post), the holy grail of corporate communications—tell your employees first—is getting harder, if not, impossible. Big news, i.e., leadership changes, acquisitions, notable hires, important business contracts, etc., invariably leaks before employees receive the official word.

images3What you say internally must play externally. Though it can be done—with strong leadership, a clear purpose and uniform understanding and respect for both—keeping corporate news confidential is hard. A simple Facebook post with a photo of a soon-to-be launched product, for example, is all it takes to blow up that established communications timeline.

Therefore, reaching employees with the corporate news first, may mean shorter initial messages, scant of detail. A long form message, following the external communications blitz, may add details and greater context. In addition, local managers and team leaders may play an increasingly important role in the internal communications process. After receiving a more complete brief, they can address the news in team meetings and answer questions on the spot.

The new face of employee communications is young—and getter younger; busy—at work and at play; social—extremely social; and mobile—incredibly mobile. Why not give them the opportunity to discover corporate news on their own time and in their own way? Employees are always-on consumers; employers need to treat them that way!

*“Myths about Millennials” by Cam Martson, About Money

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