Listening to the Talk Talk chief executive Dido Harding being interviewed about the widespread hacking of customer data earlier, I was struck by the use of one particular turn of phrase:
“We’re reaching out to our customers”.
The dog gave a startled yelp, as I yelled at the TV ‘How? How are you going to do that?’.
Because if I was a Talk Talk customer I would want important information – would I be contacted by email? Could I expect a call today, if so who from? A letter tomorrow? Or should we just wait until the banks flag that our accounts have been compromised?
When what you say is meaningless, we stop listening
You see, some circumstances – those that require urgent action – require precision in communication, and resorting to vagueness such as ‘reaching out’ is, in my opinion, inappropriate.
The phrase is an idiom borrowed from the States – up until a few years ago we stiff upper-lipped Brits would have recoiled if anyone tried to ‘reach out’ to us. Today, ‘reaching out’ has become another addition to the list of meaningless business jargon. Just say what you mean, don’t reach out, simply ‘call me’.