Going forward… and other mumbo jumbo

Guess the occupation of the person who said this: “It set the platform going forward for the remainder of the…”

No, it wasn’t our PM, any other politician, or some corporate bod. It was a footy player, covered in mud and sweat and gasping for air.  

Clearly mumbo-jumbo is catching. What’s wrong with saying: “It set us up for the rest of the game”? You’ve got to worry when weasel words hit the footy field.

So leave platforms for bus and train stations, or for standing on to clean the windows of multi-storey buildings (among other things). Use remainders when you’re talking about left over stuff you’re selling off cheaply (or other valid uses).

And for the love of … language (and sanity), forget any phrase involving going forward. For a start, it’s superfluous because it’s clear you’re not talking about going backward. It’s also perfectly fine to talk about the future. Even if the Mayan Calendar runs out next year, most of us are confident we have a ‘future’, so it’s okay to mention the f-word. Or am I just an eternal optimist?

Ditto for forward planning, unless you usually backward plan and you need to make the difference clear.

Let’s all relax – mean what we say, say what we mean, and lose the mumbo-jumbo. Because simple language doesn’t mean you are simple. It means you’re quite clever actually.

It also means people’s eyes won’t glaze over before they work out whether you’re talking about the footy game or fiscal policy.

What does your communication style say about you?

I was working with a new client the other day, and I have to say, it was a delight. This client had a very strong sense of who he was and what his business was about. And he wanted his written communication to reflect that.

He had the vital ingredient when it comes to communication style: authenticity.

So instead of creating a hazy document, muddied with corporate-speak, we were able to put together a clear, simple document that said what he wanted to say and in a way he would say it himself.

He was willing to take a risk, be a little different – be real. I call it a WYSIWYG approach. What You See Is What You Get.

The term is used to describe computing systems that display the text as it will appear in the final output, rather than in code (e.g. HTML).

I use it to describe a piece of writing that clearly conveys the ‘personality’ or ‘voice’ of the person or organisation it is about – no secret codes, no BS. You know what you’re getting.

That’s authentic – and it’s good for business. Your clients and customers can feel comfortable knowing that you mean what you say – and the language and style you use is consistent with who you are. It inspires confidence.

Does the style or ‘voice’ of your content – in websites, reports, and marketing material – reflect who you and your organisation really are? Is your communication authentic?

This is the second in our series of posts about branding. You might also like to read: Is the ‘face’ of your business sending the right message?

Is the ‘face’ of your business looking good?


The other day, I dropped into a local cupcake shop on the way to a concept development meeting (because eating cupcakes while getting creative is pretty nice really).

One of my dragonflies was with me, and we approached the counter and greeted the sales girl.

Blank stare. ‘Yes?’

We did a double-take but proceeded to choose our cupcakes – which took all of 30 seconds (okay, maybe 40) – while she stood there with her eyes rolled to the ceiling… Clearly we were taking up her valuable time.

When we made our choices, she put them in the box, dumped it on the counter, snapped out the amount, and took my money. She handed back the change, again without a word, and we both stood there gobsmacked. I  wanted to say, ‘I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want the cupcakes anymore’. But I didn’t.

Instead, we both walked out of that cupcake shop with a bad taste in our mouths. I wonder if the business owner realises how much custom the ‘face of his business’ is turning away? 

I’m sure you’ve got your own stories to tell, including great experiences you could talk about.

Talk and tell are the key words here. Because that’s what we do – about the good, the bad, the ugly customer service. 

And that brings me to branding. Businesses will pay a lot of money to build brand recognition, while the human ‘face’ of their business may be undoing all that good work.

Why? Because customers talk, and word of mouth is the best, most cost-effective, and most powerful marketing tool you have at your disposal.

What does the face of your business look like? Are your people’s attitudes consistent with your branding efforts? Do customers get the experience they expect from you – every time?

Customer service expectations need to be clearly communicated. It’s not enough to expect your employees to know how to act, or to know that the way they behave is an important factor in your business’s success (and therefore their jobs…). 

It’s vital to regularly evaluate performance too, and to recognise and reward good performance.

Think about cupcakes. No matter how great those cupcakes are, we won’t be going there again. Which is good for our waistline – but not good for their bottom line.

Is it time to look at the face of your business?