BUZZ KILL

Want to make your video stand out?  Try removing the meaningless corporate jargon– those “buzzwords” that sound important but really just muddle your message and confuse your viewers.  Tell it like it is!  In my company we don’t “leverage our synergy to empower solutions”… we work together to get the job done.  When our new manager came on board it wasn’t a “paradigm shift.”  It was a big change, and it took some getting used to.  And when I want to share an idea with my boss I don’t “run it up the flagpole” or “throw it over the wall.”  I walk into his office and tell him about it.

Buzzwords usually start out their lives as clever metaphors among insiders. It’s when they fall into general use that the trouble starts.  Writers and producers use buzzwords to prove they’re in touch with the latest trends, or imply they have a deep knowledge of a subject.  But outside the “inner circle” where it began, jargon immediately confuses people, and obscures the message instead of making it clearer.   Most people don’t really know what you mean by “take it to the next level.”  They’ll just pretend they do.  Jargon hides detail and muddies real meaning.  It allows managers to substitute vague instructions for specific ones, and avoid real decision making.  In a video, buzzwords are actually insulting to any audience who doesn’t share your current “jargon glossary.”  To many viewers they are pretentious and annoying.  And they can make a video feel dated before its time, as in “I can’t believe this video is asking us to, ‘give 110%’!’ We’ve been ‘taking it to the next level’ for at least a month now.”

It can be difficult to stick to English.  At the start of a production I like to collect lots of information from my client– about the video, the company in general and the attitudes of their management.  It helps in subtle ways with my script writing.  But while I feel duty-bound to honor my clients’ language, it’s very rare for any business communications to be jargon-free.   So I strike a balance; I include an occasional buzzword if it’s near and dear to the client’s heart, but I also look for ways to clarify the message, and I always stay vigilant for ways to remove the offending phrases without causing offense.  Interestingly, almost no one notices when they’re gone.

Even if your company or client resorts to jargon, you can be a cheerleader for plain language.  Your video speaks for your company, and clear thinking and a clear message get the best results every time. So decide what you want to say, and say it.  Make it your personal challenge to root out pretentious buzzwords in your video scripts and replace them with clearer alternatives.  Make up your own clever metaphors. You’ll impress a bigger audience than you did before, and slowly but surely raise the quality of your company’s communications.  Now that’s a robust, scalable, core competency best practice I’d like to empower!