Company announcements: avoid puffy drivel like this

Among the usual round of appointments news this week, one stood out for all the wrong reasons. The firm in question is a big, very well known name in the professional services sector. It has a good reputation but it’s hard to see how churning out puffy drivel about a newly created senior level executive post is helpful in that respect. Here’s how it was reported on one PR industry website – clearly lifted from the company’s statement. I’ve substituted the real names to spare the blushes of those involved.

Fred Smith has started at ABC International in the newly created post of head of global communications, based in London. Fred joins from XYZ where he served for the past five years as UK director of communications. He has more than 20 years of experience as a senior corporate communications adviser, including 12 years in the professional services arena.

“I’m delighted that Fred is joining our organisation in this new global role,” explained (name withheld), ABC global head of people, performance and culture. “He joins a strong team and I look forward to working with him to continue to build ABC’s profile in the market.”

“I am excited at the opportunity to join ABC and very impressed by the firm’s growth and development plans,” added Fred. “I’m also looking forward to working with ABC’s very talented marketing and communications teams.”

The first problem with this is that no-one seems to have spent more than five seconds thinking about what to say, let alone how to say it. The quotes are self-serving and mutually flattering to the extent that they read like a parody. One golden rule for quotes is that they must add something of value, above and beyond the information being conveyed. If they don’t, leave them out. And always apply the inverse test to help eliminate statements that are not just pointless but also obvious (He joins a weak team, I’m not excited, I’m not looking forward, etc).

We learn nothing about why this firm needs someone acting ‘globally’ in this role, nor what he aims to do to help his employer. Perhaps they don’t know. It does, however, reveal quite a lot about the organisation’s culture; and it’s not exactly flattering.

The irony here is that such a bland, ill-considered statement, which tells us nothing other than the company has filled a newly created post, is that the job in question is for a head of communication. That someone in such a senior role in such as large organisation could have signed off such turgid rubbish beggars belief.

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