Public Relations Mouthpiece

Corporate Fluff: Talking on Empty

There is a business technique for answering accusations about shoddy or unethical services, products, or marketing: talk - talk - talk - talk. It is often used expertly by corporate Public Relations representatives when grilled about some questionable practice.

It doesn't even matter that the response to the accusation directly deals with the topic as long as the time allocated to the issue is used up with quick positive sounding words.

PR Mouthpieces can talk fluently and brashly exuberating knowledge, confidence and corporate self approval, all the while avoiding a pertinent answer. Often they will dance around the topic while sometimes they will say nothing at all directly related to the charge. Smiling.

A popular reaction to an accusation is bragging. A quick bounce off the question with a very quick loosely related comment, and then on to self-flattering details about how wonderful their company products or services are and how much they value their customers. A communications company representative defended a charge that his company may have over charged certain seniors for years. He answered all questions so very quickly and with so many empty words that I could not recall exactly what he had said at the end of the interview. But the interview was over with no admissions or reasonable explanation.

The PR man from a brewery defended an accusation that the company was targeting minors by confidently rattling off a lot of words and details about some of the good things the company does. When the session ended they somehow did not leave the expected bad impression as it ended on corporate positives. The problem somehow just disappeared to the viewing audience.

About five years ago a spokesperson from the Automobile Association was explaining to a questioning reporter on TV about why they aren't marketing more smaller cars. "People couldn't just sell their cars and buy smaller ones . . blah . . blah . . .". Following was an SUV commercial.

Fluff has been used in sales for a long time. Ask about some concerns on a prospective purchase and get some positives about something unrelated to your query. When I asked my bank financial planner if I could manage my own account online she said yes, quickly changed the topic and talked a storm about certain investment funds, and I can't remember just what, until I left with some of those funds. I transferred the account to my no pressure, no fluff credit union.

Another very big source of fluff comes from politicians but that seems to be part of the job description. "I don't have an opinion on that now but if elected Prime Minister I would have an open mind."

On a personal basis if you are discussing a complaint or request you should at least prepare for a lot of hot air. This is assuming that you can contact anybody that would be able to help you if you have a problem. Write down your concerns and when deflected keep bringing back the topic or you will come away wondering what happened.

Good luck! but it might be extremely difficult, I have seen seasoned journalists have their interviews melted away.

"The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold." - Aristotle