Whenever a new socio-economic catastrophe comes our way, we all seem to learn a plethora of new buzz-words that would have sounded downright idiotic at any other time. In the current Corona crisis, the words permeating the public consciousness are:

Social Distancing:

  • Something I’ve long wanted to practice given the rollercoaster of runny noses I’ve witnessed on the underground over the years, but in reality I’m finding social distancing less appealing by the day.


  • This probably had a different context two months ago, illustrating someone who was in a dire depressive state or was suffering from a bad body odour problem.


  • Not an add-on to old school physical education, or PE classes.


  • Something Captain America did in his day-job.


So, what relevance does this have to the comms industry? In our field there are a huge number of buzz-words that are bandied about by agencies and clients alike, without a real understanding of that they truly mean.

My favourite 5 are:

  • Influencer– not technically a buzz-word but this has become synonymous with anyone who has a following on a social media platform, without really understanding what an influencer is, does or can do.
  • Cascade the purpose – sorry what!?
  • Innovative – it’s like when your mate says he’s the funniest person you’ve ever met, but actually is more Mrs Brown’s Boys funny, i.e. not at all!
  • Touch base – no I’d rather keep my social distance in this instance.
  • Ground-breaking storytelling – ok…you’re not William Shakespeare. If one more agency tells me about storytelling, I’ll tell them the story about the man who put a fist in their face.

For those looking for a definition of ‘buzz-word’, it: “Derives from technical terms yet often has much of the original technical meaning removed through fashionable use, being simply used to impress others.”

My old law lecturer used to say that lawyers use convoluted words, so our clients think we are more intelligent, and therefore we are able to charge lots more money. Anyone who has used a solicitor in the past can verify that to be true, for the latter part at least.

Comms is about clear communication, but as an industry we seem determined to show worth by convoluted consultancy. Yes, some words help convey a tone of voice, a message or evoke an emotion succinctly, and in that context those words are not only useful but essential. Our job is to explain communications in a way our audience, whether that be clients, suppliers or media, can understand easily. However, more often than not, we fall foul by virtue of the very thing we should be seeking to avoid…Catch-22?

Let’s hope by the time we see daylight that:

  1. We are not vampires of the night.
  2. The human race is more collaborative and understands we are all inter-connected
  3. More importantly we will have all learnt that clearer comms means better comms. It’s really as simple as that.