One of my projects at work is to produce a film introducing the concept of sustainability to all the engineers, scientists, designers, project managers and support staff in my company. As usual, it’s a rush job — why do people leave things to the last minute?
I think we’ve done a pretty good job in putting together a script for the film. Four different bosses have laid down the law on what the film should say. Crafting something that will satisfy four executive directors… It’s tricky but we managed.
I sent the final draft script to the film unit . The film unit is part of our company’s corporate communications department. Their job is to turn the script and our ideas into a coherent all-singing all-dancing message.
The sound announces the arrival of an email in my inbox. It’s from Ben, the head of film.
‘As promised,’ Ben says, ‘here is the edited script. ‘We trimmed it down to fit ten minutes and changed the order of some of the ideas. Could you have a look? If it’s okay, we’ll start to put the film together.’
The attached Word document is covered in the red of track changes.
As I read through Ben’s version of the script, my heart sinks.
‘Did you see the script?’ Amanda says as she walks past my desk. Amanda is the project manager for the film.
‘Yes,’ I reply.
I have trouble with my next sentences. Amanda waits.
‘There’s nothing wrong with Ben’s changes,’ I say at last. ‘In fact, they’re really great. He didn’t change any ideas… he just made it all simpler, less formal. But not casual, either.’
Amanda nodded. ‘I thought so too. You and I, we both try to avoid jargon, but we forget how much we write in ‘report speak’.’
‘Look at this!’ I lamented. ‘I had written, “The company’s regions and sectors have each developed their own sustainability strategies to implement the objectives of the sustainability policy”. And what did Ben write? “The different parts of the company have strategies to tackle the goals of our sustainability policy…” Why didn’t I just say that? It’s so obvious now. ‘
I yowl in anguish. ‘I thought I was good at writing! But I do ‘report speak’! I don’t want to ‘report speak’!’
Amanda laughed, ‘Don’t worry, Joan. It’s his job. Corporate comms are professional communicators. You know, Ben couldn’t calculate a carbon footprint like you can.’