Are you listening and engaging clearly? Really?

Listening baby

Listening to and engaging with audiences in clear language that is understandable even to a toddler is the basic building block of comms. And yet far too many people aren’t doing this.

Houston, we have a problem. And unlike this last sentence, which was transmitted clearly from space and the Apollo command module to NASA back in 1970, we as a function are not getting the three basic tenets of communications right.


Did you recently read about the WHO decision to make Zimbabwe’s President Dr Mugabe a goodwill ambassador. Or the NHS AirBnB concept to free up beds? I once though that such headlines would be the purview of April Fools or the Onion website.

I’m frequently finding that organizations are not listening to their stakeholders, and are making decisions which, in hindsight, turn out to be poorly thought through and which do reputational damage.


Part of the reason why we’ve gotten so bad at listening as organizations because we don’t engage with anyone outside our offices. It seems to be a trend for far too many communicators to be glued to their laptops or smartphones and not actually getting out enough to meet face to face with real people.

This trend would also explain why communicators are pushing out content of their choosing rather than actually responding to the needs to their audiences, be they media, consumers or any other group. I’m constantly being told by journalists about how their requests are being ignored, and yet when the firm wants something they’ll be all open to reaching out. What ever happened to give and take, transparency or an open dialogue?

Clear, Understandable Language

No, your office opening won’t revolutionize the region. Your latest product isn’t “a globally recognized innovation”, and your work on developing a new site for buying diapers isn’t groundbreaking.

We have a tendency to use jargon, to make what we’re doing sound smarter, more grandiose than it really is (and it’s not new, as this 2014 article from The Guardian shows).

We need to ask ourselves if our words pass the child’s test. Could we explain what we are doing to a child, and would they get it? If not, then we need to scrap the wording, and drop from the public release all the phrases that we love to use internally.

We all understand the basics of communicating as individuals. We listen to the other person, we engage with them and respond, and we look to do so clearly and concisely (ok, not all of us). If it’s so simple to understand as people, then why do we struggle as organizations to get these basics right? As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on this.

PR Buzzwords that we (often) could do without – Innovation and Social Responsibility

The concept of communicating through the written word is a remarkable thing – we have the ability to educate, engage and persuade through a well-written, thoroughly thought-out piece of work. And then, there’s the other end of the spectrum, when buzzwords and phrases are used without reason and with little understanding of their meaning in the context in which they’re used.

I came across one such example this week. A press release was sent out for a shopping promotion in Dubai. I’m going to post a screenshot below but you can also see the original article here.

How do the concepts of innovation and social responsibility work for a cash-based shopping promotion?

How do the concepts of innovation and social responsibility work for a cash-based shopping promotion?

I’m going to let you draw your own conclusions but let’s call a spade a spade and realize the power of words when properly used, in a setting that underlines their real meaning. Innovation is such a powerful term, as is social responsibility. But where’s the connection with this activity?

Anyone who works in public relations and communications will have been guilty of throwing in the odd ‘leading’, ‘global’ or award-winning every now and then. I’ve done it. However, is this habit becoming more commonplace within the Middle East’s communications sector.? When I have time, I’m going to do a keyword search to identify the worst offenders, the most overused phrases and buzzwords in regional press releases.

For the meantime, I’d like to ask you this. Which words are most overused and which turn your toes and make you cringe when you read them?