It’s that time when the web is awash with likely trends and themes for the year ahead.
I’m not one for too much crystal-ball gazing – and my track record for backing a winner at Aintree or Ascot, or being certain that Liverpool will finally win the league title again, suggests I’m not worth listening to anyway.
So I’m starting the year not with a prediction, but a plea. Can 2014 be when internal communications kicks business jargon into the long grass for good?
Melcrum’s SCM Awards evening last October was hugely enjoyable, as it always is, with people and teams in our field rightly recognised for their work. Sue Perkins, lately of The Great British Bake-Off fame, was a wonderfully funny host. But I have to admit wincing after one too many quizzical “I have no idea what that means” looks as she spoke about some of the entries.
Now admittedly, a lot of it was for comic effect – or at least you’d hope so. Because I think one of the most important things we do as internal communicators is to get under the skin of complex subjects and talk to people about them in language they’ll understand. For many in business, jargon is a comfort blanket and I think it’s down to us to show some tough love and know when it’s right to take it away.
That doesn’t just need skill – it requires courage. A survey of 1,000 executives published last year said barely any of them knew what the jargon they used meant, but most did so to make them “look more professional or intelligent”, or to “cement my position of authority”.
I think it’s down to us to help the people we support see that the reverse is true – the simpler you can make it, the better. That doesn’t mean it’ll sound unprofessional or stupid, or they’ll lack credibility. It’s just, well… normal. And the people on the receiving end will appreciate it.
So my challenge this year is to apply the Sue Perkins test frequently to what gets produced. Strive for the comms equivalent of a frothy peak – not a soggy bottom.