How does it make you feel, when you see companies use the same old worn out clichés to present themselves?
I sometimes feel as if someone is slowly dragging their nails down a chalk-board. Because of extensive overuse, certain clichés that used to be the norm became so worn out that they convey nothing about you or your company. Worn out phrases lose all originality, meaning and any oomph they once had. I’ll give several examples of terrible offenders, although I am aware there are many more to mention. If by any chance you recognize yourself in this list, perhaps it is time to let go of worn out soundbites and look for a new direction for your communication.
When I see a company lauding themselves as market leaders I always want to question that. Are you? Are you really? In Lithuania it is not uncommon that every second company crowns itself the market leader of their field, which obviously makes it absurd considering the very definition of this exclusive term. Where do all these leaders come from? Usually it is the fault of clever PR specialists that manipulate numbers by pulling very specific statistics out of context to make it seem as a possible way to identify a leader. To take an example that hits close to home: if a specific PR company distributes the biggest number of press releases during a fiscal year it hardly makes them the market leaders. The obvious suggestion is to not try and present yourself as something you are not. Market leaders are usually well established and known to the market. Avoid calling yourself that, rather look for better strategic avenues and slogans to claim as your own.
I can’t help but roll my eyes every time I see a business call themselves that. Really? We still use professionalism and quality as something to be proud of? In modern times quality and professionalism are a must. A company that hangs such a flag over themselves can evoke more suspicion than trust. Every customer and consumer that decides to buy a product or pay money for a service, at the very least expects quality and professionalism. Thus it is a lot more effective to talk about the extra milethat 10% in the 110% that you offer the people that chose you over your competition, and better yet, speak in actual examples. Showing the extras, you offer your client will always trump the rather meaningless promise of quality that is assumed to be a given nowadays.
This phrase is often encountered in the form of ‘less talk, more work’ or the old mantra of ‘result oriented company’. As if making sure you know exactly what the client wants negatively effects the results. More often than not this is just a way to mask the belief that there is no time to waste in listening to the client as we know better anyway. In reality this usually means that the final product does not meet the actual needs of the client and more time and resources are wasted in redoing and amending the initial mistakes. This goes for any sort of business be it carpentry or public relations. The difference is that the communication done after the first attempt is botched usually becomes a lot more tense. Do not be afraid to spend time ironing out the details with your clients and partners. Communication allows for a better understanding of each other and pays off in the end.
Phrases like these prime the idea of we’re pretty good, although not great yet. Some sort of cross between a start-up and a business actually taking off.
As in Lithuania, basketball country, everyone can be a perspective champion, but not all can make it to the world league.
It is worth to note that growth in itself is not a virtue. Clients care more about the extra benefit they receive from said growth, that would be a better selling point in communication. The worst offenders in this case are companies that remain perspective and perpetually growing for years upon years. Such gaffes in communication must be purged.
Stating your mission or your vision is perhaps one of the most prominent communication clichés that thankfully is going the way of the dodo. Having a vision or a mission for the company is not bad in itself, on the contrary. The problem arises when these vison/mission statements become a cavalcade of bland and overused stereotypes that have nothing to do with the company or its actual culture. Sustainable, modern, innovative, effective, goal oriented etc. Recognize yourself? These words describe thousands of other companies and thus none of them at the same time. Instead of falling back on worn out clichés, be honest and try to describe yourself in your own words. Who are you? Why should the clients choose you? A well placed dad-joke can be a better descriptor that sets you apart from the rest than using a sugar coated mission statement.
First of all, if it really is a secret, why did you just give it out to everyone? This strange oxymoron makes it anything but a secret. On the other hand, success stories are a genre upon itself. Have you given it any thought that your failures would actually set you apart better than your success stories? Yes, it is a risky approach, but real leaders are not afraid to remember the bumpy road to the top. The failures you endured often speak more about you than the sweet successes you can brag about. Failures harden and sharpen, the lessons taken from then allow companies to grow and adapt in order to avoid them in the future. Ironically, by sharing your failures you would highlight the actual success of dealing with them, learning from them and persevering.
When someone insists that you should think outside the box, look at a problem from a different perspective, chances are that they have never done so themselves. It is possible that they just don’t know what they want. Although the call to think outside the box is becoming more and more prevalent, in all honesty, when your client tells you to do so, they might not know that your regular way of approaching problems already fits that narrative. When a client approaches you with such requirements I would strongly suggest asking them to first tell you what kind of problem solving outside the box they have done before. This would give you a better scope of how far from the box do you actually need to stray. Otherwise it’s like finding a needle in a haystack, which will end with your client being dissatisfied and you will be left hurt feeling that your ingenious outside the box solution was left unappreciated.
I understand that many of you could add a plethora of other clichés to my list, there are a lot more where those came from. Thus my suggestion is this: always avoid clichés, overused phrases and ideas. You should present yourself boldly and in your own words, speaking the way you normally speak will set you out from the rest a lot better than the same old time-tested classics we all know by heart. Show the real you and you will be surprised by the amount of respect and adoration you will receive from both your partners and clients. And that will become another victory of yours to add to the list.