Yesterday, I was speaking with a friend who was learning English as a second language. I don’t remember which word it was exactly, but we got on the subject of corporate speak, the nigh-meaningless terminology that businesses use to recast their activities as something impressive sounding.
I ended up sending her a link to Weird Al Yankovic’s recent video, “Mission Statement” which makes fun of corporate speak.
I let her listen to Weird Al sing about synergies, operationalizing strategies, monetizing assets and other esoteric phrases set to “Suite Judy Blue Eyes,” preparing to be asked what the heck those words meant.
As I waited, it suddenly occurred to me that my hopes for simplified grant reports where non-profits honestly reported the results of the project rather than claiming everything went as well or better than planned, were probably impossible.
As long as for-profit companies are using this self-aggrandizing language to talk about themselves, non-profits are going to be expected to mimic them to some degree to provide the appearance of competence and effectiveness. Most granting entities are either the non-profit arm of companies employing this blather or are foundations with boards comprised of people who work for these companies. For them, use of the latest corporate speak buzzwords are indications of organizational health.
It also occurred to me that the difficulty in attracting audiences from all strata of society might be rooted, in part, in the need to employ an esoteric vocabulary. The need to sound impressive for funders probably influences marketing text. .
But it doesn’t mean much to the audiences you wish would show up.
Certainly there are plenty of other factors which might inhibit a decision to attend an event. Programmings choices that don’t resonate with the interests of local audiences being one.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that new employees who understand how to communicate in a way that interests desired community demographics find themselves pressured either overtly or subliminally over time to use more “polished” language.
I’m afraid that just as like death and taxes, the influence of corporate speak is going to persist until we can actualize a paradigm shift by distilling our core identities into a bleeding edge proactive client centric modality.