Do you get bad grammar off people?

I blame my grandmother. She loved providing real-time feedback on my grammar and her favorite was the difference between ‘off’ and ‘from’.

If I innocently reported to her that I had received something off someone, she would immediately respond that “you get fleas off people, but you get things from them”.

Indeed.

While I am a huge fan of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (and have a well thumbed copy on my bookshelf), I am also sympathetic to Stephen Fry’s tirade on language purists.

However, there is a happy medium.

Today well written, simple, plain English is the exception. Too often we descend to the lowest common denominator where we all proactively leverage robust, strategic solutions to global world-leading paradigm shifts.

Worse, in a deluge of meetings and conference calls we are routinely subjected to a verbal assault of meaningless phrases and buzzwords. This unscientific blog survey captured a few of the more common ones, although some of my personal favorites like ‘grok’ and ‘running it up the flagpole’ didn’t make the list.

Dan Pallotta put this very well in a post he published on the Harvard Business Review in December:

I’d say that in about half of my business conversations, I have almost no idea what other people are saying to me. The language of internet business models has made the problem even worse. When I was younger, if I didn’t understand what people were saying, I thought I was stupid. Now I realize that if it’s to people’s benefit that I understand them but I don’t, then they’re the ones who are stupid.

So, what is the point of this post?

I want to promote a balanced approach to language.  Let’s encourage each other to speak and write in plain, simple English and avoid the buzz word madness.

In that spirit here are two bonus links:

Some PR posts and a mini rant…

So I’ve been trawling through my PR RSS feeds and I’m including some interesting posts below, but before I get to that indulge me for a moment… 

Mini rant: What was interesting in reviewing these posts is the fact that the ‘PR 2.0’ moniker continues to live.  What is PR 2.0?  Should my business card say that I’m a PR 1.0 practitioner, or a PR 1.7.5 practitioner or maybe I can get ahead and say I’m a PR 3.1 practitioner? Here’s a secret truth. There’s no PR 2.0.  There’s just PR.  PR practice is either good (using the right tools and channels to reach, inform and engage the right audience in the right place at the right time) or bad (not using the right tools and channels etc. etc.).  There’s no 2.0.  Stop trying to make yourself sound more interesting.

image The award for the most obvious statement(s) of the week goes to John Bell at Ogilvy in this PR Week story.  I was going to include a quote, but there’s too many. Far too many. Lord.
image Andrew Bruce Smith has an interesting post on whether PR really is about reputation management.

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Aven Hames has a report on Paul Holmes’ predictions for PR in 2012 – there are some hardy annuals in there (e.g. PR in the executive suite).

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Paul Seaman shares some interesting thoughts on the Edelman Trust Barometer. You can find more news and views on the Trust Barometer here.

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Heather Yaxley has kicked off and interesting discussion “Are you too smart to work in PR”. David Reich also chimes in. I’m not Smile

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Illustrating just how far behind I am with my RSS feeds here are 10 PR predictions for 2012 from Beth Monaghan.

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Finally a nice post by Ariel Kouvaras on three things to keep in mind as the tools and channels of PR change and evolve.

  • Be curious
  • Be a thinker
  • Be open to change

 

Enough said.

Do PR agencies need to adapt or die?

Darika Ahrens at Forrester has blogged that that changing nature of ‘interactive marketing’ has the potential to make PR agencies largely irrelevant:

Why is PR at risk of losing their seat at the interactive table?

  • Traditional media decreasing in relevancy
  • Frontline ‘public relations’ online moving in-house
  • PR agencies tend to lack specialised service
  • Interactive marketing spend is dominated by Search and Paid advertising

She believes that the answer to the ‘problem’ facing PR agencies, among other things, is to build their search engine capabilities.

I haven’t seen the reaction to this yet though I’m sure there’ll be much breathless discussion of the topic across Twitter.

I have two core thoughts on the matter.

Firstly, ‘traditional PR’ is not dying as quickly as (it’s ever) been forecasted.  The reality is that traditional media still drives the majority of news cycles and much of the emerging online news is driven by key, identifiable influencers.  As a result the core PR business will survive for the time being.

Secondly, do PR agencies need to review the services they are offering and the skills of their people? Well that question isn’t reserved just for PR agencies.  Every PR and marketing professional needs to review their skills and capabilities in view of the new ways people are finding, sharing and creating information online. PR agencies are no different, they need to match the need for traditional services with services that address changing models of influence.  That’s their business.

The model for online marketing is evolving and changing in step with consumer consumption habits.  The idea that ‘interactive agencies’ will simply replace PR firms is at best a long shot and at worst a fallacy.

We live in interesting times.  One of the most enjoyable elements of a career in Public Relations is the constant need to change and adapt. The past ten years has shown me that change never takes place as quickly as people expect, but that change does happen. It’s not just PR firms that need to be actively looking at how the models of influence are changing, it’s every marketers’ challenge.

Update:

Today’s a busy day for the PR agency love meme. Haydn Shaughnessy over at Forbes has an interesting post on what PR companies are doing wrong.

When you’re communicating be true to yourself

Shakespeare wrote that when words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain.

It’s not a problem we typically encounter these days. In fact verbal flatulence is everywhere.


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Back in olden times (early and mid 1990s) one of the favorite journalist tricks was the pregnant pause. Sit and look at your interviewee. Peer over your spectacles. Say nothing. Watch them squirm at the uncomfortable silence, until hopefully they break and in a vain attempt at appearing interesting and relevant they fill the silence with some nice juicy morsel of previously unreleased information. Having seen this trick work at first hand, I now think its time may have passed. Today the likelihood of a pregnant pause is unlikely.

Silence may indeed be a virtue, but it’s a seldom used virtue. Instead we try our very best to inject noise and volume into everything.

I speak in general terms here, no specifics, just an observation.

It appears the marketing response to the increasing noise of our always-on world is, ironically, more noise.

Shout louder.

Shout more often.

That’s not to say frequency isn’t important. It is. But the big question is the frequency of what. Not to over indulge my Shakespearian theme, but 400 years ago he wrote:

Where every something, being blent together turns to a wild of nothing.

That could be a motto for communications today.

Too often we just decide we need a blog post, with little thought about what we’re trying to achieve, what we’re trying to communicate and how we’ll make the information relevant, interesting, or memorable.

Too often we just write, proof, hit publish and move on.

It’s not just a social media phenomenon. Going back to olden times there were many proponents of getting a press release out regardless of whether there was any actual news. I imagine they’re still asking for press releases and now their poor downtrodden communicators will try and palm them off with a blog post or a tweet. Something that will be dispatched into the cloud -  more in hope than expectation – never to be seen, read or thought of again.

So, the alternative is to take a strategic approach to communications. Get an understanding of your audience, where they are, what they’re reading and sharing and invest the time and energy into creating something memorable. Not once a year for a special occasion or the one time you have some real news, but as part of your daily routine.

So next time you’re asked to ‘create’ a blog post about something no one cares about, remember:

This above all; to thine own self be true.