Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why Can't They Just Say What They Mean?

Somewhere along the line, people have forgotten how to use simple, clear language in their business communications and insist on falling into a big bucket of jargon-y goo. Marketing-speak and consultant-comm are creeping into the common lexicon like boll weevils in a cotton patch, changing how we talk to each other. It would really be terrible if this problem extended into private, personal, informal conversation and I am thankful I have yet to hear this.

My rant is against using terms that are substitutes for more common everyday words. Here is a short list of my least favorite, commonly used terms:

1 - Leverage. When I was growing up this was a noun; now it is used frequently as a verb, "to leverage." Instead of people having leverage against a competitor or have the leverage to make something happen, now they leverage things, including money. You can read what says about it here. That's fine, except I am hearing the word used somewhat incorrectly over and over again and it's quite annoying. If you're using a resource, use the resource. Keep your levers out of my office.

2 - Analytics. Analytics is "the science of logical analysis" but it is now the ubiquitous term for analysis and reports, data and results.

3 - Metrics. Another annoying use of a word that began its life meaning something else --the metric system, metric tons . . . not measurements or data. See Analytics above.

4 - Client-facing. Oh, you mean the customer service and sales people? When I hear that all client-facing employees must do something, I cannot help but conjure up the image of too many people squished in an elevator or in a small office being forced to stand face-to-face trying to have a conversation. Perhaps I've just stumbled upon the concept for a new mouthwash commercial.

5 - Onboard. I don't mean vacationers who are on a cruise ship. This is used when a company brings a newbie on board . . . that person is "onboarded" which I take to mean acclimated, welcomed, oriented. But I don't really know; being a freelancer, I haven't been onboarded by a company lately. Not sure I want to be (sounds like waterboarding, no?). Alternate usage: to garner support for a project (getting people on board with you). I guess five or six words just sends some folks over the vocabulary edge.

6 - Stakeholder. Who has a stake in the company? Senior management, the owner, perhaps the board of directors if relevant. But this term has now extended to employees, clients/customers, the public. Of course, it is always better to have a stake in a company that a stake in the heart (any Van Helsing fans out there?).

Oh, I could go on but I won't. Maybe I'll rant about overused phrases such as "at the end of the day," or "off the hook." I just miss the days of saying what you mean in more than a word, using a full phrase, a long sentence -- just saying it! There are loads of really fun phrases that will keep you chuckling at the website, I found it recently and really enjoy reading what contributors submit. Some are ultra-clever, some are quite snarky, many are graphic in a good way. Check them out alphabetically at

Send me some of your least favorite newer terms that are tearing up our conversation and reducing modern discourse to a lot of words that used to mean one thing, now mean another, and others that just seem silly.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Boosting Your Online Presence

There are plenty of tactics you can take to gain more visibility for your business. Paid advertising is the most obvious—trade or consumer journals, newspapers, radio or televisions spots, billboards (you get the idea)—but in today’s tight economy many businesses are cutting back on that route and seeking less expensive or free alternatives.
Free publicity is earned when you or your company is mentioned in the press as part of a story (for example, when an event is being covered or a new product is being launched). In addition to placement in traditional media (print and broadcast outlets), free publicity is also attained in the social media world, where everyone can be a citizen journalist. It’s also a great place to boost your business exposure if you do it right and often.
As a disclaimer I will say that just because social media is a popular platform does not mean it’s for everyone; nor are all of the networks appropriate for everyone. But if you feel it is appropriate for your business and you will be able to maintain it on a regular basis, set up your accounts and take it from there.
·         A LinkedIn profile, Facebook business page, and/or a Twitter account are great ways to engage your audience—share interesting commentaries, blog posts, and articles from other sources, and provide information about your area of expertise (without selling—just sharing).  
·         Search LinkedIn for good connections in related industries or for those who could become good referral sources and vice versa. Send an invitation to connect and start the conversation.
·         Create a well-written branded profile or description. Make sure keywords are there that potential clients or employers would use to find someone with your skills or background. Use your profile to position yourself as an expert in your field, a valuable resource, a smart addition to a team. Change it up now and then to refresh your online presence—your followers will get a notification that you’ve changed your status or profile and the right person might be interested enough to check you out anew. Think of it as a different kind of resume.
·         Use your social accounts to engage your audience in a number of ways: announce promotions and run contests, or inform your followers about your company’s good news or your personal accomplishments. Post links to videos on YouTube or Vimeo, or to photos on Flickr or Pinterest.
·         Respond to discussions on LinkedIn or other companies’ Facebook pages, or to blog posts and articles you read that are related to your business. Work in something about why you are responding that identifies you or explains why you would be responding if this is appropriate.
Don’t overtly promote your own company—that feels spammy and we all hate that! Rather, respond to the post thoughtfully from the standpoint as an expert or helpful and interested reader. This is also a way to develop positive relationships over the internet with others in your field or area of interest. Others will start to recognize you, connections can develop, a future client, colleague or employer might start an online conversation with you … who knows where it will lead!?
·         Feeling bloggy? Go ahead—write about your area of expertise and be sure to tell your social network connections that a new post is up (love those links).
Don’t worry, you don’t have to do all of this and you certainly don’t have to do it all at the same time. Try out a few things that are comfortable for you and see how it goes. Work with a marketing consultant who can help you frame your activities or work them into a marketing plan so you don’t fall prey to a scatter-shot approach. And make sure your marketing materials reflect your brand and are professionally written and designed; when all those new audience members, blog subscribers, or social network followers ask for more information, they’ll be directed to a website or receive a brochure or presentation kit that shows off your business to its best advantage.