Academics have long argued that whilst two negatives can make a positive, it's impossible for two positives to make a negative. Except for Scots where the phrase 'aye right' cuts through academic theory and jargon, proving that two of the most emphatic affirmatives can indeed form a resounding ‘No’. Of course for full effect, this sarcastic gesture is best practiced with a straight face, raised eyebrow, and preferably a Billy Connolly type persona. ‘You havin’ a bubble?’ (bath – laugh) is a similar cockney ridicule aimed at cutting through what is perceived to be a stupid proposition.
We now have a countdown of 90 days to the General Election and we can look forward to an endless barrage of messaging to win us over; given our loss of trust with politicians it is likely that these will be met with a few of the aforementioned retorts .... or worse. As we all know when trust in the messenger is lost it is hard to get any message across, however plausible it may be. The issue can be compounded by the art of spin and political jargon which becomes a series of meaningless sound bites; when what we all want is some straight talking and honest answers. So serious is the issue that last year the Cabinet Office issued a 13 page guide to stop the jargon.
The new style guide on the www.gov.uk website warns against "vague" jargon and buzzwords as well as using too many metaphors in government announcements. Agenda, dialogue, empower and utilise are among the phrases to be avoided.
Of course business is just as culpable; as this example I saw recently demonstrates: 'Our transparent, forward-looking and actionable performance cultures leverage trusted efficiencies ahead of schedule’ - surely deserves a resounding 'aye right'.
There was no such jargon on show at the CCA Excellence Seminar and Reception this week in London, ironically held in Westminster, kindly hosted by Mike Crockart MP. Delegates heard how to position their organisations and improve their chances of winning much coveted accolades, to be awarded in November 2015.
Brenda Shields from Royal Mail, one of CCA's most experienced judges explained in simple English the do's and don'ts. Do read the question, do note the word count, do understand your strengths and apply accordingly. Do ensure that you have relevant evidence for any claims you make. Don't make claims you can't substantiate, don't make statements without meaning, don't forget to use your interview to show that you believe in what you have submitted. Remember that the judges are all professionals like you and have been there, seen it and heard it all before – authenticity is critical and spin won't wash.
We then heard from Bernie McHugh Sonner from Ulsterbank, last year's CCA Professional of the Year - Manager. Bernie's account of her experience as a new leader in an organisation challenged by huge problems, was a breath of fresh air for everyone. The fact that the biggest cheer from her colleagues was when she won the individual award that they had nominated her for, rather than their other submissions, tells us everything we need to know about why she was successful. Well done Bernie!
Jo Weigh from MBNA gave an equally succinct account of their success in winning the complaints team of the year, making the point that a submission made 4 years ago would simply not make it today, given the sharp rise in standards since then. This is true evidence of 'Raising the Bar' which is the theme of CCA's programme this year. There is a growing imperative for us to know and celebrate 'what good looks like' in order that standards continue to improve. We can only do this if we clearly articulate the issues and successes in our organisations, and in turn provide concise and authentic messages to consumers who are crying out for clarity and simplicity. Truth is a point of view, but authenticity can't be faked.