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9 March 2016

Communication is at risk of breaking, we have to fix it one brick at a time

Written by: Alex Eeles, Principal Writer at Edelman

Consumer Trends & Insight, Media

Bricks bricks break break.

Although it might not seem to be at first glance, that’s a perfectly legitimate sentence. Bricks that other bricks break get broken. Just like ‘Dogs people hate bite’.

But why bother anyone with such a worthless utterance?

For me, it illustrates something that too often gets overlooked these days: just because a collection of words technically makes sense doesn’t mean it actually communicates anything meaningful, useful or even understandable to the intended audience.

We see it all the time. Quotes that take seven attempts to decipher and the turn out to say nothing of substance anyway. Like this from a well-known CEO following an acquisition: “This deal, we feel, is the right deal to go forward. In the go-forward scenario, we plan on doing the deal.”

Company websites awash with jargon, abbreviations and marketing speak. Seasoned team of Solutionists, anyone? Even the hotel I stayed in last week took almost an entire four page booklet to explain the oh-so-complex environmental reasons that I shouldn’t expect to have my towel changed.

Now perhaps I’m being oversensitive or maybe I should seek more generous accommodation but it all seems so utterly pointless. Unless we happen to be Piers Morgan, none of us talk for our own benefit. Just as we rarely (if ever) write for ourselves either.

The driver behind any form of communication is and should always be someone else. The listener. Viewer. Reader. Follower. If they don’t care about or enjoy what we’re saying, or if they can’t wade through the verbosity and complexity to even comprehend it, then why bother at all?

More than any other, the communications industry has a duty to fix this plague of opacity and promote a world of conciseness and clarity. One that puts the audience first and is free of bricks getting broken by other bricks.

In our profession, words are currency. We must spend them wisely.

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