9 (And More) Secrets Communicators Will Never Tell You


A friend and professional colleague e-mailed me this week with what she called a “blog-worthy” idea. While in the dentist’s chair, she asked the hygienist to share her biggest pet peeve. The hygienist said it’s when people text while getting their teeth cleaned.

Now, that bit of information doesn’t exactly fit the parameters of my blog. (It does, however, fit my friend Steve Crescenzo’s outrageous blog, Corporate Hallucinations; he wrote a funny — and R-rated — entry on a very similar subject recently. Reader’s Digest also has a fun recurring feature along these lines. For example, on their website they have “13 Things Your Mall Santa Won’t Tell You.”)

This all got me thinking about communicators. What “secrets” would we never tell our clients about the work we do or about their own communication practices?

Here’s a start. Help me build a longer list in the comments section.

1. We don’t look forward to being asked to write a column, a letter or a speech for you in senior management because we know our words will never be used anyway. It’s amazing that you even ask for communicators’ help with writing since you change most of it. Maybe you ask us just so you can tear our work apart. Maybe it makes you feel virile or something.

2. If you really wanted that column, letter or speech to sound great, you would spend a few minutes letting us interview you. This is probably the number one thing that would improve how your communications come across, but you and your peers rarely take advantage of it.

3. We will do anything we can to avoid getting Legal review of our work. Sometimes it seems the lawyer’s purpose in life is to make communications incomprehensible. If there is a way around Legal review, we will find it. If there is not, we will resign ourselves to the fact that our work will be unrecognizable and then we will find a way to keep our name from being associated with it.

4. You know how all the engineers / accountants / bureaucrats / lawyers / MBAs, etc., in our company look down their noses at us? We do the same to them. You see, we went to school, too — in most cases, to be a communicator. It’s as specialized a field as any of the others in our company and we know that not just anybody can do it well.

5. Sometimes when you make changes to our work, we change it back. If it was a significant change, we only change it back when we know we’re right and we’re willing to get in trouble for it. If it’s a minor change, such as placement of a comma, we do it just for the secret satisfaction.

6. When you buy communication consulting services from one of those gigantic HR consulting firms, you’re usually just throwing away your money. Those of us on staff can do what they do better and more efficiently. And we usually have more experience than the junior account executive they’ll assign to the job. If you must hire a consultant — for an outside perspective or for niche expertise — you’ll get a better value with an independent practitioner that we know.

7. We often laugh at your mission statements and value propositions. It’s not because we don’t think a mission or a value proposition is important. It’s because they are so poorly written that nobody knows what they mean.

8. We resent being called “spin doctors” or “wordsmiths.” These are derogatory terms in our business. Besides, they don’t begin to describe what we do.

9. We wish you executives would stop trying so hard and just be yourselves — unless your real self is the arrogant, stiff, unfeeling blowhard you portray in your written and face-to-face communications. But somehow we suspect that’s not the real you. And if you asked us, we could probably help the real you come through.

OK, readers. This is not an exhaustive list. Now it’s your turn. Add your “Secrets Communicators Will Never Tell You.”

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9 Responses

  1. Who needs to add to this, RJH? It is PERFECT. I’m printing it out and putting it up on the door to my office. (The back side of the door to my office, where only I will see it.)

  2. My pet peeve: When someone gives me their column and says, “Work your magic.” Grrrrrrrrr.

  3. I can totally relate. Sometimes I just think it is only the people I work for that pulls this crap. I’m so happy that I am not alone in this.

    I hate it when the person in question has no real understanding of what good communication/PR. Then they act like they know more about it than you do.

    Also when they claim to want to hear your ideas, thoughts, but what they want is for you to regurgitate their same old crap back to them. Those people who live for the status quo and don’t want anything new or innovative.

  4. […] 9 (And More) Secrets Communicators Will Never Tell You […]

  5. […] never tell our clients about the work we do or about their own communication practices?” His list of nine secrets lifts the lid on the frustrations speechwriters and other communications professionals have with […]

  6. This is marvelous, and #5 really made me laugh. My pet peeve: I hate when you expect me to develop and implement an entire communication strategy for your new product/initiative a week before its release. You’ve been working on the darn thing for six months. Why wasn’t I brought on board then? I might have even saved you some work.

  7. There is a western civilization belief that “the best answer will win out in the end”. It doesn’t. Professor Robert Cialdini has done great work to develop a science of how to pitch an idea and multiply the chance that the listener engages and acts just by changing one word or the phrasing of one sentence. Psychology and persuasive communication will be to the 22nd century what physics has been for the 21st. Nice blog.

  8. All true and all are great, but my favorite is #5! And I think there is no need to add to you nine.

  9. When we meet members of the media at bars for drinks, we tell them the truth, no matter what you approved.

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