Have you ever been engaged in a conversation but then walked away from it not actually knowing what was said?

Corp talk. It’s a rapidly growing and evolving language - a linguist’s dream.

At Lush HQ, we’ll often have corp talk updates over lunch when we’ve heard a new phrase or buzzword whilst out on a shoot or in a meeting. The more I hear, the more evident it is that there’s no defined language. There are the common buzzwords and phrases that would probably make the Oxford English Dictionary, but some companies actually have their own unique corp talk. What surprised me about one particular organisation is that not only do they have their own words and sayings, but each department has their own too. So within one company there are essentially 10 or so ‘accents’!

We joke, but what if it comes to a point where the world is divided into corp and non-corp speaking people?

I’ve had clients where I have to make a concerted effort to decipher the corp talk. Once I’ve de-coded the 30 minutes of blurb I get to the point of the conversation, which could have been said in 5 minutes of normal talk. It all sounds very impressive on the face of it, but stop fluffing up language and get to the point.

Maybe it’s the commercial radio producer in me that is a little obsessed with word economy, i.e., the constant battle of cutting down presenter chat to prevent missing an advert break or not hitting the song quota. When planning outside broadcasts, for example, we’d always refer to the public as ‘punters’, as in ‘what would the punters want?’ Yet some people (who the good guys referred to as media w***** types) took this to a whole new level and would refer to anyone non-media as a punter, making it ‘us’ and ‘them’. “How do punters bear it going to a festival and being in the general public section?” (when they can schmooze with the celebs and musicians in the VIP area with flushing toilets).

The use of language enables people to feel a sense of belonging, to be in a club with like-minded people. For those desperately clawing their way up the corporate ladder, they attempt to mimic those they aspire to be.  This is proven to happen with body language too. Copying language verbally or physically from a peer can unconsciously position yourself on their level, letting them know you’re like them, because you speak and act the same. It sounds primitive but is backed up by research.

We have compiled a list of a few of our favourite phrases that we’d like to share with you, the organisations will remain anonymous.

  • Can I just open the kimono?
  • What’s your pain point?
  • We hit a few hot buttons in that meeting
  • This is coming straight out of our bottom line
  • We need to break down silos
  • We are having a mindset meeting
  • We’ll talk offline
  • I’d love to see the engagement matrix for that
  • Touch points
  • We needed frictionless movement
  • Can I just make a call-out?
  • That’s really given us a “heros high”
  • Can we just circle back around on this?
  • Whose head will be on a spike?

Corp talk may work within the clique at work but is it effective at communicating to your audience? We’re here to tell your story through the most effective means of communication, which means relating to your audience.

Next time you’re stuck in one of those conversations full of lovely, buzzy, corpy chat, feel free to email us your favourites to add to our ever-growing list.

- by Lucy Helliwell