Tag Archives: public relations

The Danger of Dirty Corporate Words

By Jeff Beals

By now you’ve probably heard a great deal about United Airlines’ infamous “re-accommodation” of a passenger on a recent flight from Chicago O’Hare to Louisville, Kentucky.

Just in case you missed it, the plane was overbooked – as is too often the case with major airlines – meaning four passengers had to give up their seats.  Nobody volunteered to leave their seats despite large bribes (travel vouchers) being offered by United.  Eventually, the airline randomly chose four unlucky souls to be forced off the plane.  One of those passengers refused to leave. He was eventually dragged off the plane violently.  Videos showed the 69-year-old passenger screaming in pain while being dragged toward the exit. His face was bloodied.

Predictably, those videos went viral, leading to a firestorm of backlash against United Airlines. The whole incident is made worse when you consider that the passengers were already onboard and in their seats waiting to depart.

Did the passenger act improperly by refusing to leave private property (the airplane) after being ordered to do so? Technically, yes. Was his anger understandable?  Yes. Chronically bad treatment by airlines is maddening to paying customers. Is there something inherently wrong with overbooking planes and forcing paying customers to leave? Yes. How many other industries could get away with such a practice?

But for now, let’s set aside the argument as to whether or not the passenger should have cooperated and instead focus on United Airlines’ response.

The incident is being described as a public relations nightmare. It brings to light the controversial subject of overbooking. It’s a vivid reminder that airlines generally aren’t known for their customer service.  It reminds people of poor treatment they may have experienced on previous United flights.  The optics are never good when the big powerful corporation is perceived to be picking on the little guy.

Whenever a huge company makes a huge mistake the quality and speed of the response is critically important. PR experts almost uniformly agree that United botched it.

As I watched this story unfold, one word grabbed my attention and planted itself permanently in my head: “re-accommodated.”

United CEO Oscar Munez has fumbled and bumbled several statements since the incident, but of all his poorly chosen words, this statement takes the cake:

“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United,” Munoz said. “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

Re-accommodate?  Is that a sanitized, made-up word for “having your face rearranged while getting kicked off a plane you paid to ride?”

Comedians and others have had a lot of fun with that statement, joking about the painful process of “re-accommodation” and how the CEO of United needs to get “re-accommodated” to the unemployment line.

When I read Munoz’s use of “re-accommodated,” I was reminded of something that has always chaffed my ears – meaningless, politically correct, corporate double-speak.  It’s a long-standing problem in the business world and it shows no sign of going away anytime soon.

The business world is full of patronizing language.

A study by the Financial Times a few years ago indicated that fewer than 10 percent of business executives actually understood the meaning of commonly used corporate jargon and business buzzwords. The researchers surveyed nearly a thousand executives and found that “the overwhelming majority were unable to correctly explain the jargon they use on a daily basis.

The study described most of the surveyed executives as possessing “‘admittedly ignorant’ understanding of ‘very confusing’ management speak.” Nevertheless, the survey respondents admitted to using an average of five corporate buzzwords each day.

Whether they uttered the words in board rooms, in client meetings or social settings, the executives believed the words “made them look more professional or intelligent” and “cemented their positions of authority.”

Similarly, when uttered in front of the media as a way to cover up or lessen the impact of bad corporate behavior, executives believe pseudo-intellectual, misleading euphemisms protect their companies and preserve their images.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Buzzwords, jargon and corporate double-speak are painful to the ear and patronizing to the brain. Those who use such “words” in the hope of sounding brilliant end up sounding anything but brilliant at least to those people who are good at seeing through nonsense. Those who use deceitful euphemisms to gloss over bad behavior lose all their credibility.

The business world has long been plagued by the use of hollow buzzwords. Resist the temptation! Use clear, concise language. Over the course of time, clear communicators are more respected than those whose mouths spew never-ending phrases of institutional bollocks.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events in 2016. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events in 2017!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

+1-402-917-5730

info@jeffbeals.com

How to Get Free Coverage in a Loud & Crowded Media Market

By Jeff Beals

The news media and fire have a lot in common.

Fire powered the industrial revolution. It cooks our food and keeps us alive during cold weather.  On the other hand, fire can kill you if it’s not properly managed.

Many of the benefits we enjoy in modern, free societies would not have been possible without the news media keeping watch and keeping us informed. A strong relationship with media outlets can help your company or organization be noticed by the public.  It can help get your message to the people who need to hear it.  On the other hand, if not properly managed, media can drive away your customers and get you fired.

Your success is enhanced when you have strong and positive relationships with relevant media outlets.  You want as much free (we call it “earned”) media as possible and you want it to be as positive as possible. Earned media is more credible than advertising. Anyone who reads/listens to an ad, knows that somebody paid for it, so it’s obviously biased. Articles or stories on radio and television come across as more objective.

Don’t discount the value of earned coverage in traditional media channels (newspaper, radio, television), just because social media have become so popular.  Social media are powerful and effective and have opened up many more channels of communication. Yet traditional media are still critically important.  As a speaker and consultant, I have a significant social media presence, but I get more of a professional benefit from the talk show I host on AM radio and my articles that are published in newspapers and magazines.

Indeed the media remain powerful. For relatively small effort and cost, you can reach a mass audience. Therefore, whether marketing yourself or your company, it makes sense to harness the media’s power. To do that more effectively, consider the following tips:

1. Build relationships and establish rapport with journalists in your market area. Make sure they understand who you are and what interesting and newsworthy information you are qualified to provide.  You want to become a recognized expert, someone who is known to be on the cutting edge of a subject area. Media people love experts (especially interesting) far more than public relations specialists.

2. Remember journalists are under pressure to fill space and time. There’s no time to celebrate once they send one edition to the printer, because the next edition is just empty white space. Once a talk-show host signs off at the end of his Wednesday show, he has to go right back to work preparing for Thursday’s show. Frequently pitch new material and offer to “localize” national or international stories that relate to your industry or area of expertise. Look for excuses to be in the news.

3. Make journalists’ lives easier by providing them with hard-to-find, fascinating information that other media outlets have not yet reported. As part of my radio talk-show host duties, I do a daily minute that airs during the morning drive.  Each day I provide a snippet of information. It’s a hassle coming up with new stuff all the time. If someone sends me something that is new, interesting and related to my show format, I appreciate it and will probably use the material.

4. Be quick in returning calls or emails from the media. If you delay, they may grow impatient and interview your competitor instead of you.  I once missed out on the opportunity to discuss one of my books on CNBC, because I didn’t notice a voice mail in time.

5. Be very forgiving. Unless a journalist makes a mistake that humiliates you or damages your competitive standing, let it go when you are unhappy with his or her reporting. The only thing you accomplish when you complain to journalists is to guarantee they will never call you again.

6. Keep in mind that journalists have egos just like everyone else. If you get an interview, one of your primary jobs is to make the interviewer look good.

7. Assume that nothing is “off the record” unless you have a close friendship with the journalist.

8. Avoid clichés and don’t use too much politically correct language. Most media people are turned off by industry jargon.  They will rarely use the long and cumbersome job titles that too many companies are handing out these days. In other words, they’re not impressed that your title is “senior deputy vice president for brand management and client engagement.” You can use real words and still come across as an intelligent person.

9. Don’t ramble on with lengthy answers. I once interviewed a business leader who just released a new book. Her answer to my first question lasted several minutes. That’s FOREVER in radio time. I had to cut her off, which doesn’t make either of us look good.

10. Strike a balance between professionalism and charisma.  You want to be interesting and engaging, but you don’t want to come across like a high school cheerleader who has had too much caffeine this morning.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events in 2016. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events in 2017!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

+1-402-917-5730

info@jeffbeals.com