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Is your internal communication indistinguishable from your external marketing/PR? Are you using the same marketing-speak to talk to your people?

If Marketing/PR-speak were an ointment, it would be labeled “for external use only.”

This may sound stupidly obvious, but your people are not the same as your customers. Their relationship and interactions with your organisation is different to customers. Their needs are different. The way you communicate with them must reflect this.

Marketing/PR language is intended to paint a positive picture, present the best side of situations, downplay negatives, and makes grandiose, utopian promises. Marketing/PR language is necessarily removed from the immediate harsh reality of your business.

Communicating with your people using marketing/PR-speak has the following consequences:

  • Inauthentic. Marketing necessitates a level of optimism and selective representation of reality. Real communications talk about the good and the bad with clear, direct, language. This will fuel cynicism and distrust.
  • Dismissive, disconnected, and shows weak leadership. When things are bad, your people want to hear you acknowledge the issues, and feel that you are rallying with them to meet these head-on. Denying the problems, minimising the concerns, patronising feel-good statements are all likely to be received as you sweeping problems under the carpet.
  • Divisive. Management is seen as doing nothing more than a source of hollow platitudes. Workers are seen as complainers who are never satisfied. This them and us situation pitches parties who should be working together against each other.
  • Disrespectful. Unless you are hiring children, you people will know bullshit when they read/hear it. And when this is done intentionally and consistently, they will rightly feel disrespected. This will impact morale and productivity.

The people who work in your organisation know how good or bad things really are. They may not be willing to express this directly to management, or feel they can’t. You would have to be very naive or deluded to believe that marketing messages can effectively obfuscate or somehow magically transform the day-to-day reality of your organisation.

Leave the spin to marketing. Avoid the in-vogue marketing keywords like the plague. Don’t harp on about innovation or customer experience; instead talk about how we can better help customers in real and practical ways by improving how we work.

Cut the bullshit. Call a spade a spade. Show up. step up, and lead!