Monday, October 31, 2011

Mantra overload (9)

Mantra overload – the excessive use of trendy, vague expressions – is a bad habit of many corporate public relations people. The habit is especially noticeable in press releases about executive promotions. For example, an IBM press release issued last week quotes* chairman Samuel J. Palmisano on CEO-elect Virginia M. Rometty:

“She brings to the role of CEO a unique combination of vision, client focus, unrelenting drive, and passion for IBMers and the company’s future.”

In that 24-word sentence, I count five mantras: unique, vision, focus, drive, and passion. If you ever happen to have time on your hands, you can entertain yourself for hours looking for an executive appointment release that does not include at least two of those five mantras.

The Takeaway: If you intend to write clearly, do not mimic corporate public relations people. With few exceptions, they are heavy users of mantras and other evasive terms. Overuse of mantras hampers communication, damages your credibility, and dulls your mind. Use mantras sparingly or not at all. Keep asking yourself, “What do I really mean here?” Over time, this diligent habit will make your writing more precise and more honest.

Thanks to Janice L. Brown and Paul G. Henning for pointing out these instances.

See disclaimer.

*It is unlikely that Mr. Palmisano actually uttered (or wrote) those words; “quotes” are usually crafted by the public relations people.

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