Avoiding clichés in corporate communications
The five most common offences – and how to start thinking with originality.
Your English teacher once told you to avoid clichés. ‘They’re lazy and unimaginative,’ she said. ‘Find your own words to describe things!’
You agreed, and a stream of ever more exotic gems began to demonstrate your pre-teen sophistication. ‘Plethora’ was one of them.
Alas, less than twenty years on, you crossed the moat into the corporate realm – where language is functional and short-cuts help save your brainpower for more pressing matters. You became time-pressured and results-focused; and your resolve to avoid clichés became a distant memory.
Because everyone else did the same thing, corporate communications became riddled – infested – with clichés.
Some resistant strains of cliché developed, like:
We partner with you
Its more than a decade since companies in most service sectors became ‘partners’ to their clients, and not plodding, uninspired ‘service providers’.
We form strong relationships with our clients
While our competitors hate their clients and prefer to form weak relationships with them whenever they can…
Soon, deadly superbugs emerged, resisting all attempts at control:
Is it really? Really? Never been done before? Absolutely the only one out there?
You don’t pathologically ignore your customers’ needs, or retreat to sip Mojitos in the bar downstairs every afternoon?
Our people are our greatest asset
Not your staplers? Incredible. And radically different to your competitors!
Corporate clichés should be exterminated, and you just might consider joining this worthy cause. Not because it would make your English teacher proud, but because every time you use the language that competitors are using you prevent your company from standing out in the marketplace. And that elusive goal is probably the very thing you want to achieve.
Companies that speak with a more original voice are rewarded by their customers and clients. Accountants Buzzacott employ meaningful language around common themes: they build relationships that are not just ‘strong’ but ‘personal, enduring and based on continuity of personnel’. The innocent words in Innocent Drinks’ marketing — ‘exciting’, ‘bright’, ‘never ever’ — convey the purity of its products to health-concerned parents.
Avoiding clichés is easy. Two preventative measures can slow their onset:
1. Ringfencing enough time to develop language that’s true and meaningful (or getting help to do it)
2. Using research to capture and build on perceptions of your business, and be smart in how you position yourself against peers
Taking these steps will enhance the impact of all your communications. Which, in turn will enhance your company’s ability to change, win, sell, and grow.