Posts Tagged 'Jordan Boob Dilemma'

Cliché-ridden rubbish

For insomniacs, rugby fans and those of us known as morning people, listening to ITV’s World Cup Rugby commentator Phil Vickery is a buttock-clenching lesson in Talknormalism. Obviously uncomfortable in his new job, he flips between the banal (“he uses his feet to run”), strained silence (“If the art of commentary is silence, Vickery is its Rembrandt” – The Daily Telegraph), and waffly overtalking (in Vickery’s commentary you don’t play rugby, you “get a game of rugby under your belt”).

Online rugby fans are not content (“truly, truly awful”, “needs to be cattle-prodded”, “master of platitudes”, “cliché-ridden rubbish”, “the worst commentator in the history of sport”, and that’s just the kinder ones). Searching Twitter for the word “Vickery” during an England rugby game is more entertaining than watching the team play.

It can’t be easy to be a commentator but, on the other hand, it’s his job. We might expect a certain level of expertise. This is a surprisingly common problem in British televised sport, where often the guy in the second seat seems to be doing it for a bet. In the last football World Cup Chris Coleman also gave the impression that he was just filling in until the real commentator’s taxi showed up, stringing together every football cliche from “he’s got good touch for a big man” to “you often you see a team concede soon after scoring a goal”, delivered when we’d just seen a team concede soon after scoring a goal.

Expertise in doing something does not guarantee expertise in explaining it to others, but that expertise can be trained, developed, measured and rewarded. This doesn’t just apply to sport.

Last week I spoke at a conference of the Chartered Management Institute to encourage more slavish obedience to my borderline fanaticism. A member of the audience asked how managers should solve the Vickery-Coleman communication problems in their companies. I suggested they start by formally assessing how well those managers speak and write, with compulsory training for the ones who don’t do it well, and rewards for the ones who do. Anecdotally I find that, when I work to help companies with a waffle problem, junior staff are often just copying a Vickery-Coleman boss. We catch waffle from each other like we catch a nasty cold.

Waffle infection could explain the moment towards the end of this weekend’s game when Nick Mullins, Vickery’s co-commentator, informed us that England full back Ben Foden “always has his eyes open, and is always ready to pin back his ears.” I think I remember that torture scene from one of the Saw films:

Maybe Mullins caught a nasty case of platitudes from Vickery. Although, thinking about it, he has always been rubbish too.

Talk Normal in meatspace

"Tools that help us": keeping my options open on instruments of torture; you never know.

Thanks to Claire Thompson and her extremely constructive The Tools That Help Us initiative, I’ll be a panellist in a session called Cleaning Up Communications at Tempero, 14-16 Great Portland Street, London W1W 8QW, on 25 June at 2pm.*

Click on the link to sign up. It’s free. Also on show: Darika Ahrens, Grapevine Consulting, on #fixpr; Richard Ellis of the Public Relations Consultants Association; Molly Flatt, 1000 Heads; Adam Parker, An Inconvenient PR Truth.

I’m allowed to talk for five minutes – rather than the five hours I’d prefer – so I’m taking advice on what to say if you’re coming along and want me to do requests.

Otherwise, show up and ask me a question, and we can exchange ideas. Remember when we used to do that? Now we can go to Twitter and ask the opinion of millions of people we don’t know, instead of just five of us. But let’s give this conversation thing one more go. For old time’s sake. Promise I won’t ask again.

* To save you the trouble of looking it up: North Korea v Ivory Coast, Brazil v Portugal.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

All onboard

A metaphorical howl of despair echoes across the internet as far as the Talk Normal inbox from Mr C of South London, whose identity I am protecting for obvious reasons:

We are in the process of being “onboarded” as a supplier by a well known IT brand. The people concerned have used this term constantly as a verb, adjective and noun in the last 48 hours. For them it is obviously normal.

Well, Mr C, the abuse you are suffering is thankfully still rare, but we should not be complacent. Though deliberate onboarding is still used only by a small number of companies, that number is shooting up. There are more onboarders living and working among us than ever; the most sickening aspect is that, for them, it’s completely normal. Look:

That’s spectacular growth for a word that has no obvious reason to exist, and which I can’t find mentioned at all until 1998. Before 2002, there is one mention of the word for every 10 million published articles in the Factiva database.

The growth is mostly from the sector that Factiva calls talent management, which is one of those phrases, like “fresh frozen”, where the first word is put there to make impressionable people feel super happy. The talent management sector produces press releases about onboarding with headlines like:

Fortune 100 Companies Will Unite at Peopleclick Authoria Global Client Conference to Discuss Business and HR Trends

Note the use of unite, which tries to make a sales conference sound like a protest rally (“What do we want? Onboarding! When do we want it? On receipt of satisfactory references!”).

I’ve even found some mentions of offboarding in the last couple of years. As a weasel-word for “sacking” or “making redundant” it has limitations: imagine calling the victim into your office to explain tactfully that you’re offboarding him, and then having to explain what you just said.

I’ll give a mug to the first firm of supply chain analysts that has the brass neck to try to sell a report about the trend towards hyperonboarding™. But I must be careful what I wish for.

Meanwhile for you, Mr C, it’s a Jordan Boob Dilemma moment in South London. Do you allow yourself to be onboarded in silence, in the knowledge that those who thoughtlessly onboard you today may onboard literally thousands of suppliers in the future? Or do you refuse to be a part of a procurement system that does this to innocent young businesspeople like yourself? It’s probably too late to save Mr C. But we must take a stand.

My Katie Price boob job shame

You're meant to be looking at the books

Though Radio 4’s Thought for the Day is still out of bounds to those of us who don’t have a religion, the god-botherers at the BBC can’t censor Talknormalism’s Christmas Message to you:

As this is a time of year when we buy things we don’t need, it is the perfect time to tell the story of Katie Price’s decision to acquire larger breasts, my influence on her decision, and how those iconic breasts inspired Talk Normal.

Many years ago, Jordan (as she was then) was an up-and-coming young topless model, and I was asked to appear on the same TV programme as her. It was an after-the-pub Friday night show put out by Meridian TV, and my job was to explain how to log in to the internet to watch amateur webcams, empowering a generation of drunk men to scour chatrooms for an internet friend who might take her shirt off after hours of pleading. For some reason the researchers had called the editor of Guardian Online for advice on this noble pastime, and the Guardian (understandably not wanting to soil itself, but correctly assuming I’d do it for £60 cash plus train fare) suggested me.

Jordan had been booked to do some flirty links for the show while wearing tiny clothes. It’s a good job they didn’t get our scripts mixed up, though she could probably have done a decent job with mine.

Anyway, someone had broken something on the set, so we all sat in the green room for a few hours while men with hammers fixed it. There was a glum American stand up comedian and a guy who rode muddy motorbikes for a living. Jordan’s Gladiator boyfriend Ace was there to keep her company while we tucked in to the free booze and crisps backstage. Comedy, motorbikes, muscles, partial nudity, chardonnay and modems. That was the 1990s for you. Crazy, crazy days.

And so it came to pass that, after a few glasses, Jordan asked us all her opinion on whether she ought to have a boob job. At that time her breasts were what a certain type of web site calls natural, though it wasn’t the first adjective that popped into your head when you met her. She was thinking about it, she said, because a newspaper had offered to pay for her breast enhancement on the condition that they got an exclusive right to photograph the results. It seemed like a good offer to her. Ace stared furiously at the Doritos and said “I always tell Katie she’s got quite enough already”.

When it was my turn to speak, I planned to say, “What are you thinking? You’re hardly out of school! The tabloid press will turn you into a human freakshow! You already look like a pencil with two tennis balls sellotaped to it! Are you mad?”

Instead, when she pointed herself at me and said “what do you fink? Should I have them done?”, I looked at my feet and said, bravely:

Oh I dunno.

I don’t know who paid for her boobs in the end, but the next time I saw her in the newspapers she was a much bigger woman. Maybe, in reflective moments, when she contemplates the sadness of being made to eat bugs in the jungle by vengeful reality TV viewers, she thinks, “why didn’t that bald nerd I met all those years ago in Southampton warn me it would come to this?” I’m sorry, Katie.

It is this failure of nerve that resolved me to do what a blogger should do at all times: to speak truth to power, no matter how many product marketing managers, marketing communications consultants or brand ambassadors I upset. That is why without Katie Price, we wouldn’t have this fragile and precious thing we call Talk Normal.

We all have times when we talk crap to avoid saying what we know to be true. My Christmas wish for you is that, the next time you are faced with what philosophers call the Jordan Boob Dilemma (JBD) in your work, don’t mumble about challenges and facilitation and win-win scenarios while thinking “that is a truly terrible idea”. Honour Talknormalism by saying what you think, as I should have done all those years ago.

Happy Gifting Season.


Cut out your waffle: buy my book

Type your email and click the button and you will automatically get every new post.

“This excellent collection” (Director Magazine). Click to order:

I tweet