No More Business Bullsh...I mean...Buzz. Please.

05/25/2011 12:15 pm ET
  • Jake Brewer Chief Strategy Officer, Fission; Co-founder, Define American

"...Our organization offers innovative and competent services to empower communities and organizations aimed at stimulating collaborative initiatives; while simultaneously developing harmonious relations which leverage..."

I can't finish.

Last week I got an email that used that line to describe a company's socially responsible work. This email follows hundreds of others this year and at this point I think it's official: socially responsible business and nonprofit folks - like politicians - have learned to describe what they do without saying anything at all. For a while it seemed we could stave off the Silicon Valley jargon just enough to get across what was really meant, but it appears to have been a losing battle.

As if to confirm my fears, this week's emails have been worse:

"(Organization) has been working to create momentum, and serves the field through digital engagement and theory-building projects that bring the experiences of the field full-circle and inform both practitioners and the larger arena."

What field? Who is the larger arena? Create momentum for what? Where exactly do you get when you bring a yet-unidentified "field" "full-circle?" (I promise it doesn't get answered in the rest of the email.) Honestly, does anyone out there read "digital engagement" and respond, "Holy *&^%? Really? The field is coming full-circle?! That's brilliant! Where do I sign up?"

$5 says you're about to try to "leverage" some "synergies" and add value to the "sector."

This guy is:

"Based on the new latest Web 2.0 technologies - similar to Wikipedia - a web-based platform will be installed that creates collective knowledge on the basis of user generated content. Members of our platform will be engaged in a democratic forum on a regular basis. The structure will consist of a comprehensive but intuitive visualization of the deconstructed supply chain of the sector. We will provide an interactive search, leveraging mashups..." Blah. Blah. Blah.

I read Fast Company and Wired too. You lost me and everyone else you sent this to at "new latest" - and then you solicited laughter with "similar to Wikipedia."

Here's the worst part though; these email excerpts are not random. In some cases, emails like this are coming from reputable, well-known businesses - both for-profit and non - and from people we know. In conversation circles it can be just as bad; if not worse. I'm certain I'm not alone in wishing we could all just talk. Normally. Please.

The Business for Social Responsibility Conference starts tomorrow here in San Francisco, and I'm almost scared of what I will encounter.

My humble plea is that if you feel the urge to use buzz language in an email, proposal or conversation; don't. Don't be the person who sends emails with sentences like the ones above.

And if your vocabulary is not yet saturated, keep your guard up. Buzz-phrases can infiltrate our otherwise meaningful conversations quickly. If the situation arises that you must speak in buzz-nouns, buzz-verbs and buzz-other-parts-of-speech (sometimes it's the only language a counterpart will understand), use your best judgment and keep it isolated. And whatever you do, please never string it all together like the sentences above - especially if it's unprovoked.

Unprovoked buzz-word usage is wrong. Plain and simple.

If you're unsure about whether you're using buzz phrases or not, ask yourself if it sounds like anything this site would create.

And please never - EVER - introduce your company by telling us what it's a combination of. I.e. "it's a kind of like a YouTube meets MySpace meets Stumbleupon meets Digg platform community application tool program."

So until your next conversation, here's to leveraging engaged collaborative catalytic initiatives for the creation of synergistic multi-cultural innovative and integrated services for positive conversational development.