Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Weasel Words - thank you Altus Agency!

"We are the market leader, earning our clients' loyalty by providing exemplary service and value. We value honesty, innovation and our employees most of all."

If your mission statement resembles that - shame on you!

Weasel words. We use that term for the buzzwords that people use when they really don't know what to say. It's almost like a magician's slight of hand. If I use these words, you won't recognize that I'm not really saying anything.

Many times, weasel words crop up when a committee is involved or in an environment where no one wants to tell the boss that the corporate culture is not a healthy one. Words like empowerment, paradigm and innovation are clues that you've entered into the weasel word danger zone!

Contrast those weasel words with this simple but meaningful sentence. It comes from the values statement of one of our clients (they wrote these themselves, so we're not patting ourselves on the back.) "Fun provides energy for success." I not only understood every word, but it gives me a sense of who they are and what they'd be like to work with.

I think people use weasel words because they are at a loss. They feel like they need to fill space or deflect our attention. Or that somehow we won't think they're legit if they talk like regular people. They're afraid they won't measure up. They won't be good enough.

The truth of the matter is - we know they're not perfect. And we like them better when they don't pontificate or wax on.

Basically, they have a brand inferiority complex. Keep a sharp eye on your own writing and your company's cornerstone documents. At the first sign of the weasel words - grab that red pen!

Reprinted with permission by Altus Agency & David Jefferys. If you want more info, write me!

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