Tag Archives: corporate

Corporate jargon – no more please

Take a look at the quote in this blog that gets girls to cook stuff wearing J-Crew clothes.

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Image by J-Crew

It’s the kind of thing that would have Darwin spinning in his grave. The man who spent years analysing animals and plants all over the world and eventually coining the theory of natural selection would now find that cooking blogs are using his name to describe laziness in washing-up.

It’s symptomatic of many corporate blogs, and corporate writing in general. I was once employed by a big multinational company and asked to produce research for them – thoughts and ideas about where their industry is heading.

When I delivered my initial papers they were all rejected for being too simple. I wasn’t sure what they meant so I asked for some clarification – I was told they just don’t sound like an executive would have written them. I was using titles such as the FT and Economist as guidance for my own style – journals that can explain complex subjects using clear English.

I tried again only to be rebuffed once more, so I went to the other extreme and filled my report with acronyms, jargon, and ridiculous corporate expressions that no “real” person would ever use. “We love it!” was the message from my client and that set the tone of my writing work for them.

I was thinking of this when listening to the FT ‘Gongs for the Greatest Guff’ awards for 2013 – as presented by Lucy Kellaway. Have a listen and see if you can think of a bottle of water (suitable for vegetarians) in the same way ever again?

Water - suitable for vegetarians

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Help! My boss just asked me to start using Twitter at work!

What do you say to the boss?

This is becoming more and more common. In the early days of social networks, most companies banned them at work. They were seen as a frivolous waste of time, but now many companies are actively asking their employees to use personal social networks to promote the company.

But what if you are not already using Twitter and this is all new… check out this short primer I wrote earlier today as a very basic guide to what you should do next.

Farewell Ealing Tweetup…

I wrote on my Computer Weekly blog here about the handover of the Ealing Tweetup to Hayden and all the other regulars at the event. It’s been a lot of fun putting these events together and seeing how the event has grown over time – it’s a shame to say goodbye, but I’m sure it’s going to continue growing because the event has a great amount of momentum behind it now.

When I could see the event getting bigger I thought about how it could easily be sponsored. Getting some free food and drinks would make it more attractive to the regulars and would help to start bringing in a bigger audience.

Of course, getting corporate sponsorship is a double-edged sword. It’s great to get free drinks, but it can be hard to keep something like a Tweetup as an informal gathering once companies start pumping money into the event. They want to know who is attending, what company attendees are from, what position they hold, and especially whether there are any people from the media in attendance – being close to the BBC and Sky in west London that’s been quite a common occurrence anyway.

But I don’t think we ever let the sponsorship take over the tweetup. People have been directed together, go and have a chat to so-and-so, but there has never been a formal name-list, name badges, list of attendees. It’s never been that kind of event and I hope it stays that way, even if it means buying a pint in future.

I’m really grateful to the companies that have sponsored the Tweetup – namely 1e and Xerox. They have all realised that to go ‘too corporate’ would ruin their involvement in the event and instead of people feeling genuine gratitude at their help in pulling together something interesting, there would have been a negative reaction at any over-controlling nature.

I hope future sponsors of this, and similar events, can also see the value in getting positive mentions online and building relationships with the blogging community. Good luck for the future tweetups in Ealing!

Introducing the Ealing Tweetup

Personal Branding

I’ve read more and more about ‘personal branding’ recently online. Perhaps it’s just because I’m British and tend to shy away from some of the more garish Americanisms around marketing, but isn’t this just a ghastly phrase?

I’m a freelance worker and I do my own thing, working for corporate clients, in the media, and for trade bodies, so a personal brand is important for me.

But isn’t it just my good reputation? I’m not a brand… I was asking a trade body yesterday about a project we are planning together. It’s something where I will need to pull in a corporate sponsor to fund it and I asked them if they had any requirements about the kind of supporter I could work with. They told me that common sense was all we needed to apply. If it won’t ruin my reputation then it won’t ruin theirs.

That’s a good pragmatic approach to reputation, but it seems the personal branding gurus are going crazy on Twitter at present. Either I need to stop following a few more people or just ignore the whole fad until it blows over…

Burberry - What Not to Wear...

Is it a crime to be a ghost?

As I scanned what my Twitter friends were saying today I saw a tweet expressing shock at hearing about ‘corporate ghost blogging’. I noticed a few tweets mentioning the subject today, probably as a result of the discussion going on at the Dell B2B huddle in Bracknell.

Ghost blogging elicits a shocked response from many in the online community, who believe that it’s no longer real or engaging if a corporate blogger has had all the work done for them by a writer.

It’s certainly true. There is a lot of corporate spam out there – particularly on Twitter. Accounts that just advertise various products or services are not what I’m focused on at all – or interested in.

What interests me is where do you draw the line and say that a blogger is no longer a ‘real’ blogger because his/her material is ghosted?

I work with companies in several sectors, including IT, law, consulting, and in many cases I am involved in drafting blogs. I see it really as an extension of the corporate writing work I’ve been doing for ages. Companies used to ask writers like me to come up with ‘Thought Leadership’ or material they could use in ‘white papers’.

For corporates, blogging is a natural extension of this earlier thought leadership. They want to be seen with a voice, an opinion, and some knowledge about the industry in which they operate – and all without a direct sales pitch.

So when we talk about ghost blogging online in shocked and horrified voices, let’s start drawing a distinction. When I do it, I’m taking rough blog drafts from executives and turning their copy into something worth blogging, making their use of language more direct, making the comment more open-ended to encourage debate. I’m not writing the blog for them, I’m just polishing up their own efforts because most execs either have a shortage of time or a shortage of writing experience. To a journalist, cranking out 200 words is easy. To a busy exec with no journalism experience, that’s half a day sitting and writing then improving the copy.

Sometimes I will write an entire blog, but that will be based on a conversation with the exec – who is normally rushing around somewhere in a taxi or limo. It’s not crafted from the depths of my own mind.

So, if I’m polishing up some executive thoughts and making them worth blogging, then is that really cheating?

If people think it is, then they might want to have a look at the serious press. Take a look at all those guest columns where captains of industry have sent 800-words to the editor on a burning issue. Do you really think that CEO sat down and crafted the newspaper column without running it past someone to tidy up?

Twitter is another topic entirely. As many companies have found, it’s difficult to create a corporate account and expect thousands of avid followers to come and follow a stream of press releases. Executives making Twitter work well are doing so because it’s short, direct, and personal – and written by the person on the profile.

So where do we draw the line with ghosting and blogs?