In These Trying Times, Clichés Provide Comfort

June 16, 2020

 

As we cope with the “new normal,” communications pros keep repeating the same trite phrases.

 

In these uncertain times, communications vocabulary for brands, public officials and small businesses has entered a new normal. Now more than ever, public relations and marketing professionals have scrambled to maintain individuality for their clients while we navigate the uncharted waters of a global pandemic. Indeed, the banality of our language shows we are all in this together in more ways than one.

 

But why does the unprecedented nature of COVID-19 make us coalesce around a shortlist of trite adages? And as challenging and trying as it may be, should communicators make an effort to distinguish themselves — or is cliché preferable to outré?

 

Linguists tell us that this kind of deduction can serve a variety of uses — from solidarity to a kind of salve for our anxiety. Or, in the case of public officials, to skirt blame. Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Christopher Borrelli points out:

 

Political language, George Orwell famously said, tends to give “an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” For example, however unprecedented the crisis may be, the repeated use of “unprecedented” can serve as a nice way of deflecting accountability.

 

Brands, likewise, have seemed to agree that just one format is acceptable for self-promotion. So much so that their attempts at sincerity are providing some comic relief as well as excellent parody.

 

Meanwhile, in the already cliché-ladden corporate world, it appears empathy and compassion have finally arrived. But I think most of us welcome their embrace.

Krystal Bonner is the Director of Digital and Creative Services in Ceisler Media's Philadelphia office

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