I used to think the corporate world was ground zero for messaging that leaned on clichés and business-speak.
Turns out that the funeral industry might have it beat.
There is a ton of euphemism around death, most of which comes from a place of caring and wanting to bring comfort in a time of turmoil and sadness.
I knew this as an observer, but it came into full relief back in March when my 94-year-old Dad died (or I should say “passed away” or “left this mortal coil?”) Even the funeral home called itself the "Home to Celebrate Life." There are so many other euphemisms, as my friend Kel McBride (aka The Lively Death Lady) can tell you (and does in this article.)
Relying so hard on euphemism can end up watering down or even obliterating the person you are intending to honor. And it’s not that different from when we write for our businesses using the jargon and clichés of our industry.
We’re talking about something, but it could be anything, it might be nothing. No wonder so many of the business owners I work with start out hating to write for their businesses.
My Mom was clear that she did not want any “flowery language” used for my Dad. She impressed this on the funeral director for the services and me as the writer of my Dad’s obituary. That’s a different story, by the way, which I share in this month’s issue of The 23rd (This link gets you on the list.)
But even before I could tackle the obituary, I had to do something about the flowers.
Not the blooms themselves. The picture of the arrangement was lovely and we were assured the florist could work in any color palette my Mom wanted. The problem was the ribbon. One of the arrangements would be fitted with a cascading ribbon emblazoned “Devoted Father.”
Don’t get me wrong, my Dad was a devoted father. I didn’t object because it wasn’t true. The problem was “Devoted Father” was funeral-speak, not from-the-heart speak. It was generic and inauthentic. So we nixed “devoted father” in favor of something customized. Ours said “Dear Old Dad,” the sign off he used on all his cards and letters to us.
“Devoted Father” or “Dear Old Dad.”
Those words tell a completely different story, don’t they?
You can – you have to – do this with the writing you do for your business. Peel back the generic industry-speak and clichés designed for everyone (aka no one in particular) and use your words. Unmask the euphemisms and dare to be real. Skip the flowery language…unless flowery language exactly exemplifies who you are and what you do.
Use the words that reflect you, your value, your intent for your business. Not the words people expect to hear from someone in your line of work.
"...reflect you, your value, your intent for your business” or “words people expect to hear from someone in your line of work.”
Which do you want to convey?
We turn to cliché and euphemism, stale messaging and shopworn phrases because they’re safe. They are a disguise that provides distance and cover when authenticity feels too vulnerable.
Changing a ribbon on some flowers was pretty simple. When I suggested the more authentic phrase, my sisters pretty much shouted “that’s perfect!” in unison. And it made me feel like those flowers were a tribute from his girls, not just the standard issue arrangement that all parents get.
I know that changing how you talk about your business can seem harder, maybe even scarier. But the payoff is equally satisfying.
If you’re ready to ditch the flowery language and generic euphemisms that are holding back your business content, let’s talk. You don’t have to figure it out on your own.
The first step is us sitting down together (virtually via Zoom) to chat about where the authentic voice of your business is hiding and how we can uncover it together. This is the link to my calendar. We can get started now.
Sure, some people aren’t going to like what you say. But other people – your ideal clients – are going to start feeling like you are speaking directly to them.