Okay, it’s time for me to announce the winner of the 2011 Corporate Communications Clown of the Year Award. This award is given to the person, department or corporation I believe is most responsible for the worst (best?) example of corporate-speak or the worst (best?) attempt at corporate spin.
Throughout the year I have provided a few nominations but some late entries have come to my attention. First, let’s recap some of the earlier ‘achievements’.
First up was Geoff Parker, Chief Executive of the Australasian Bottled Water Institute. He was reacting to the decision by the University of Canberra to ban the sale of bottled water on its campus, a move that is estimated to reduce the amount of bottled water by 140,000 a year. According to Mr Parker, the ‘jury is out’ on whether refillable bottles are better for the environment than the production of plastic bottles. Say what? I emailed him to ‘please explain’ but got no response.
Telcos are always candidates for this type of award, given their love of jargon and corporate-speak. This year it was Optus Chief Executive, Paul O’Sullivan, who excelled when he sent an internal email announcing a round of redundancies. Did he mention the redundancies in the first sentence of the email? No, instead he said, ‘Today we are taking another step in our transformation journey.’ How about the second sentence? No, that was where he mentioned the need for Optus to be ‘efficient and streamlined’. Then it must have been the third sentence. No! That was all about reviewing ‘our structure, our capability, our systems and processes, and our cost base.’ Finally he got around to mentioning the redundancies – sort of. ‘As a result of our review we have made some hard decisions – to consolidate roles, reduce headcount and reduce operating expenditure.’ Does that mean people are going to lose their jobs? Finally, he spat it out – ‘Today we are announcing the removal of 250 roles from across all areas of the business. This will result in around 180 people leaving the company.’ There, that wasn’t too hard, was it?
For the marketing disaster of the year, we go overseas, and the US clothing company, backcountry.com. As Americans watched disastrous winds wreak havoc across Tornado Alley, backcountry.com sent out a marketing email that read:
MOTHER NATURE HATES YOU.
DEAL WITH IT!
UP TO 40% OFF OUTERWEAR AND RAINWEAR.
Back home for the next two nominations – and away from private enterprise to the world of government. First comes this priceless example of corporate-speak from the Department of Defence. In response to suggestions that the Department did not respond in a timely and appropriate manner to media requests, they admitted that there was an ‘indifferent organisational responsiveness to ministerial requests associated with media inquiries and media activities’. That explains it then, doesn’t it?
Politicians mangling the English language is nothing new. My all time favourite would have to be William McMahon’s priceless contribution during the 1972 election campaign, ‘There comes a time in the flood of time in the affairs of men that, taken at the flood of the tide, leads on to fortune.’ Now fledging Senator John Madigan of the DLP might not be quite in that class yet but he’s on the way if he continues to mix his metaphors like he did earlier in the year, ‘A lot of people feel like they are a mouse in a Ferris wheel in a big pond of water and if they so much as stop and smell the roses, they are going to bloody drown.’ Have you got that image in your mind: a mouse, sitting on a Ferris wheel, that has been erected in the middle of a pond, and somehow the mouse is able to reach out and grab some roses … forget it.
But the winner of the Corporate Communications Clown Award of the Year goes to those members of the Victoria Police based in Gippsland who directed local businesses to stop selling alcohol to Aboriginal people in East Bairnsdale. When complaints started rolling in, they backtracked by explaining that what they meant to say was that local businesses should stop selling alcohol to possible troublemakers. I have looked up both the Macquarie Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus but cannot find where ‘possible troublemakers’ is n official synonym for ‘Aboriginal Australians’. This isn’t Alabama in the early 60s, this is Victoria 2011.
Let’s see what 2012 brings.