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Kill Your Flowery Language

If you work in an office setting, chances are you’re familiar with “corporate speak.” Synergy. Ecosystem. Silos. The list goes on and on. In some settings, they are harmless – even useful, depending on whom you ask. But there is one place you should ban all flowery jargon: recall communications.

While recall announcements should never be too casual or watered down, it is crucial that they be reported clearly. Why? Imagine you’re an everyday consumer and you hear about product you own that is being recalled due to a “thermal event.” What does that mean? You might have some idea that “thermal” has to do with heat. After all, you use your thermos to keep your soup hot until lunchtime. That sounds similar, sort of. But it hardly sounds serious. So what do you do? Toss the recall notice in the garbage. Disregard the news story. Pass by the Facebook post in favor of the piano-playing kitten. In short, you ignore the information entirely. But “thermal event” means fire hazard – and it’s a dangerous issue that can damage property, destroy homes, and cause serious injuries.

Getting customers to understand the seriousness of the issue is only the first step. They must also know how to confirm that the product they own is part of the recall and, if so, what to do with it. Plain language should be used at each step of the communication process, including notification to retailers and customers, press releases, social media posts, websites, and agent scripts. Straightforward language can also help reduce the risk of misreporting by the media and the spread of misinformation by well-meaning consumers on social media.

It is easy to fall back on the jargon. After many years in the workforce, it often flows naturally. An experienced recall partner can help identify the instances where it might otherwise go unnoticed. Recall experts can also help make the case for plain language to reluctant colleagues who may be uncomfortable stepping outside their usual “talk track.”

Using overly-elaborate language certainly isn’t the only pitfall when it comes to recall communications, but it is a very common one. At a time when consumers are inundated with recall news, and when regulators are exploring ways to boost lagging consumer response rates, it is important to remove this self-imposed barrier to action.

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