Monday, February 11, 2013

corp speak and tricky questions

One small aspect of my job is to media train people.

That is, make sure our execs can not only answer questions that are posed to them, (sometimes difficult, scary questions) but also help them to talk in a way that everyone understands.

You won't believe how many people in big corporate jobs - so most of us in London - cannot talk about their jobs or what they're doing, in simple terms.

This is the hardest aspect to media training. It's helping them to break a really jargonny, deeply-ingrained bad habit and make them speak normally.

So many execs are absolute experts in their field, and are used to talking in code. They are cursed by their own knowledge; they forget how to speak human.
For example, it'll usually go something like this: "Let's leverage this by engaging in the correct protocols." 

Peas: "I need you to pretend you're in the pub. And I am 87 years old. And I know nothing about this subject matter. You need to describe for me, what that means."

Media trainee: "We should leverage this by touching base on the right policies?"

Peas: "No. No. No. That still means nothing to me. Let's start again. Pretend I am an 8 year old child. And you need to tell me about your supply chain. What do you say."

Media trainee: "The growth in the supply chain has been nominal this year."

Peas: Better.......How about "Our business is booming. Thanks to people in Finland buying more of our stuff."

This can take hours and hours to correct. To make someone talk like a news anchor, and not like the VP of Supply Operations.

Here's the Three Little Pigs, in corp speak. Don't forget to sync up and cross-pollinate the knowledge channel with your wider pod.
Share it, if your job is like mine:

The other side of the coin, of course, is teaching people to answer tricky questions. Things they are not comfortable answering (usually gets them into big trouble/fired), or it falls out of their zone of work, or something has happened.
Like an oil spill and it's your fault (BP), or brakes are missing from your cars (Toyota), or like recently, horse meat has been found in your burgers (Tesco.) And you have a mic thrust in your face and ITV News is asking for answers.

Or like this poor chap, who wasn't briefed or prepared for any of the onslaught facing him in the dentistry world:

Or this famous clip from the BBC, interviewing the VP of Facebook on ads.

A good PR will help these people 1) speak in human sentences and 2) answer any questions thrown at them.
I try, anyway.

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