Each year, the BBC presents Corporate Guff awards to recognize the worst offenders of language abuse in the name of corporate blather in the prior year. The awards are presented by Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway. This article will highlight a couple of things and will shed some light on how to avoid it.

To give you an example of what Lisa means by corporate guff, let’s examine what companies say when they fire an employee; “Reuters caused staff to be “transitioned out of the company”, while other businesses “disestablished” or even “completed” roles.

But the winner is HSBC, which “demised” about 900 of its managers. In doing this it has invented a euphemism that is harsher than the real thing. It made it sound as if it was not merely sacking staff but exterminating them.”

Nouns and Verbs

The next prize is for the worst way of meeting/talking to/emailing someone. This is a pet dislike of mine… “to reach out” is the latest curse. 

“To reach out”, a previous winner, almost won again as the loathsome phrase has spread into “reaching down” (talking to underlings) and “reaching around” (talking to a group).” added Lisa.

The problem with guff is that its viral.

Whatever happened to plain English? 

And the Winner Is…

Lisa’s award to this year’s “chief obfuscation champion”, was given to the CEO who never opens his or her mouth without a blue streak of guff pouring out.

“The winner is Rob Stone, CEO of Cornerstone, who wrote about his ad agency’s expansion: “As brands build out a world footprint, they look for the no-holds-barred global POV that’s always been part of our wheelhouse.”

Thus he came up with a four-way mixed metaphor that managed to say nothing whatsoever.”

Corporate Guff and Gobbledygook are Rife 

Corporate Guff and Gobbledygook are rife in the technology industry and a misguided use of our language. Buyers have finely tuned Gobbledygook and “BS” antennas and tune out when they read it and hear it.

David Meerman Scott in his “cutting edge”,”mission critical” article on gobbledygook suggests, “Marketers don’t understand buyers, the problems buyers face, or how their product helps solve these problems. That’s where the gobbledygook happens.

First the marketing person bugs the product managers and others in the organization to provide a set of the product’s features. Then the marketing person reverse-engineers the language that they think the buyer wants to hear based not on buyer input but on what the product does”.

The chart below is from the same article and depicts the top Gobbledygook phrases in a 2006 analysis of more than 388,000 news releases, which found one or more Gobbledygook phrase in more 74,000 articles.

Click here for an instant download of David Meerman Scott’s Gobbledygook Manifesto

Using a Messaging Architecture to Eliminate Guff & Gobbledygook.

The problem faced by many companies is that structured messaging based on product usage, either does not exist, or is trapped in documents, inaccessible to all but a small group of brand marketers, so that salespeople and marketers outside the branding group have to make it up. 

A Messaging Architecture defines value messaging components for reuse in marketing, sales and brand
messaging products.

The lowest level component in the Messaging hierarchy is the “Win-Theme”.

Win Themes are reusable Value Messaging components that drive consistent sales and marketing communication.

Win-Themes are product usage chunks (wits), that connect product capabilities to buyer goals and needs by
asking the following question for each buyer goal; “How specifically does your product, or service, or combination of products and services create value for buyer X in pursuit of goal ‘A’?

WittyParrot is a component based content management system that enables content creators to develop, maintain, adapts and share aligned sales and marketing messaging.

Using WittyParrot to develop and deploy component based messaging products instead of traditional document-based portal approaches means that sales, marketing, channel partners, customer support and human resources can instantly access, reuse and adapt Messaging Win-Theme components (wits) in an unlimited number of information products to protect and amplify the brand and eliminate guff and gobbledygook. 


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