The not-so-sweet sound of success

Posted on January 29th, by geoff in Caring Times, CT blog. 3 comments

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

Here’s one of my many gripes about marketing and PR people. It seems that nothing is done these days unless it be done ‘successfully’.

So we hear of developers having successfully gained planning permission; of builders successfully completing a project, of IT companies successfully launching a new app; a company successfully appointing a new chief executive.

Can any of these be done unsuccessfully? I suppose that in the latter case, if the new CEO turns out to be a duffer, then the appointment may be retrospectively deemed to have been unsuccessful, but I don’t think the PR people are claiming prescience; in their desperation to achieve a positive gloss, they scatter their adverbs and adjectives with no real regard to sense, and then people like me have to weed them all out (none shall pass!).

The word ‘successfully’ should only be used where there is some doubt as to the achievability of the enterprise, (e.g. ‘Despite recurring cramp, he successfully swam the English Channel’). So, when PR people say a client successfully did something, they are in fact acknowledging some doubt about their client’s ability to pull it off – so much for positivity!

I think this can be a problem for care providers who outsource their marketing and PR; too often the perceived need to put a positive spin on absolutely everything is used to hide a lack of understanding of the content, and the careless use of language can sometimes compound the error.

May I suggest the following procedure before appointing a PR firm – ask to see a sample press release, go over it carefully and if you find that the word count can be cut by half, without losing any of the factual content, then give that firm a miss – they are wasting everybody’s time and your money. Bringing it in-house is often a better option.

Having got that off my chest, I’m going to go and successfully eat my breakfast.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

3 responses to “The not-so-sweet sound of success”

  1. John Burton says:

    How to sound a false note:
    “take all complaints very seriously;”
    “deliver” care. strategies, initiatives etc.;
    “ensure” . . . anything it’s obvious you can’t make sure of;
    “co-produce”, “personalise”, and “transform”;
    “put systems in place”
    and spend time and money telling people what you are going to do but never doing it.

  2. Bob Ferguson says:

    Once you’ve successfully eaten your breakfast, perhaps you’d apply your editorial skills to an advertisement that I came across recently, outside a motel (on the other side of the world, as it happens). It proclaimed, in bold capitals: “CLEAN TOILETS”. Surprisingly, there was no exclamation mark.
    So, Geoff, was that an example of your preference for minimalism in advertising practice, or an expression of an abysmally low level of expectation on what might be called bog standards?

  3. geoff says:


    I’m surprised they spelled toilets correctly. In recent holidays to Oz I have photographed notices referring to pedestrains, whale carcuses (I kid you not, and that was an official sign with the imprimatur of a government department), permanent tennants and a four coarse meal. Why did we ever grant them independence?

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