The Worst Copy in the World?

Howard Lake | 9 February 2016 | Blogs

It’s time to banish nonsense HR jargon.
I’m always telling our clients to use the language of the layman to recruit donors. No-one is interested in a new ‘joined up service delivery model’ I say, or an ‘integrated support pathway’. But they might be interested in the fact that you need more money to help more people who really need it.
Odd then that whilst we preach plain English we lapse into the weirdest sort of corporate jargon when it comes to advertising for the staff that we’ll want to produce accessible and hard-hitting prose for the man or woman in Donor Street. Take this classic, from the person spec for a donor development officer at a medium sized health charity: –
‘Outcomes focused with the ability to prioritise many competing demands and parallel campaigns against a fixed time resource’.
Err, what? I presume this means someone who can hit targets whilst being very busy, and I can only guess that a fixed time resource means they might want to go home at night.
So why not say so? Why replace the clear and the everyday with edited highlights of the world’s worst management speak? Such as this, from the job description for a database manager:
“Proactively manage a key organisational asset to facilitate the achievement of strategic outcomes whilst balancing competing demands from multiple stakeholder groups”.
So that means look after the database so it helps people do their jobs properly. Yes?
Oddest of all is the promiscuous use of what I call the future predictive tense, the one that’s used to announce what you’ll be like if only you apply for the job. Like a website advert I saw for a very good senior DM role:
‘You will be a highly experienced direct marketer with a strong background across all channels’.
Will I? Well that’s good because it sounds like a nice thing to be. But how do I do it? And when?
A lot of this comes from job descriptions being standardised and vetted by HR departments to ensure ‘corporate standards’. It’s very similar to how good fundraising copy can get mangled by marketing and comms teams to impose ‘brand compliance’. But will any of it tempt bright and creative people to join you? Of course not, and I see no more reason why we should accept utter guff here than we would in an appeal letter.
So next time you need to write a job description try something that will set you apart and, shock horror, might even make sense. Go on, be brave and give it a go. Being the first employer to cut the bull and use some clear and emotive copy might help you attract the best and brightest people, which in turn will help expedite the realisation of strategic outcomes.
Or, in other words, help to raise more money.

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