Keep it simple

A few years ago the Chief Executive of a Council which I was working for accepted an invitation from a local radio station to be interviewed live on their breakfast programme about the Council’s performance.

My colleagues and I in the communications team prepared him as best we could, giving him an extensive list of likely questions and answers. In particular, we knew that he would be asked about the fact that some of the main roads in the borough were always being dug up. We advised him to stress that this was often outwith the Council’s control as the utility companies had a statutory right to dig holes whenever they wanted.      

On the morning of the interview the comms team were all spluttering our coffee when we heard our Chief Exec make repeated references to something called “statutory undertakers”. The listening public must have been left with the impression that road works were all the fault of rogue funeral directors!

The lesson to learn from this is that Plain English doesn’t just apply to written communications. The Public Sector, like other industry sectors, has a unique set of acronyms and jargon phrases which mean nothing to the lay person.

If we want to communicate effectively with the public then we need to cut out the gobbledegook. No public sector communicator should ever use meaningless buzzwords like –

  • blue sky thinking
  • deliverability
  • change management
  • headcount reduction
  • re-engineering
  • roadmap

The only acronym you need to remember is KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.



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