About Those Pandemic Buzzphrases…

How Do We Change Our Rhetoric?

Since we’ve entered lockdown, there have been some remarkable displays of creativity proving just how innovative the human mind can get with limited resources and a little extra time. We’ve demonstrated incredible advances in adapting to a situation that, at times, can feel bleak and is ever-changing. Where we seem to be falling short on the creative spectrum, however, is in how we speak about the current pandemic.

Turn on the tv or read an article written in the last few months and you’re bound to see the same key stock phrases that I can only imagine the originators of these statements are wishing they had trademarked as they are repeated ad nauseam:

“In these uncertain times with the novel coronavirus our new normal is changing as we work to find ways to safely welcome you back because we’re all in this together.”

You probably thought of about 35 pieces of content with that exact same sentiment in the three seconds it took you to read that last sentence. It is also very likely reading that left you feeling wildly uninspired, apathetic and ready to disregard anything I had to say after. Not exactly the lasting mark any communicator wants to leave on anyone.

Our rhetoric and discourse are powerful tools and at the moment, we aren’t using them to their full extent. As communicators, it’s one of the primary ways we connect with audiences on a personal level. Great rhetoric shapes opinions, fosters thought, and ignites action. There are entire teams solely dedicated to deciding exactly what will be said and how to customers because words are indeed impactful. With that in mind, one can’t help but wonder how does any communicator stand out among audiences when everyone is saying the exact same thing?

A challenge with discussing the pandemic is that it is indeed new for many of us. We don’t know what to say because we haven’t had to say it before. To be safe, we all seemed to have made some sort of unspoken agreement to just adhere to certain verbiage and keep it at that. As both a communicator and consumer, I can say that it’s grown a bit tiresome to hear the same phrases repeatedly recycled in conjunction with pandemic discourse. We’re well beyond the redundant safe speech, we’ve been feeding people the last few months. It’s time to break away from the script we seem to have inadvertently placed upon ourselves and actually say something worth listening to:

 


What We Say:

“In these uncertain/trying times…”

What We Really Mean:

“Hey, we get things suck right now. We’re right there with you.”

What We Should Say:

Let’s empathetically relate to audiences with real, personable language (This doesn’t mean going through your company’s origin story. Most people just want to order a pizza and don’t care that you’ve been serving the local community since World War II). Acknowledging the pandemic is nice, but not a must. Breathe some personality into the conversation.

 


What We Say:

“The novel coronavirus…”

What We Really Mean:

“We have never seen anything like this before either. Wtf.”

What We Should Say:

Challenge yourself to see how you can creatively speak to the pandemic without using the words “coronavirus” or “Covid-19”. See how replacing these words revives the discourse and makes it more dynamic.

 


What We Say:

“We’re looking forward to welcoming you back/We’re all in this together”

What We Really Mean:

“We want this to be over just as much as you do.”

What We Should Say:

The unity is understood, but seeing exactly how we’re united isn’t always as clear. Show how you’re allied with customers rather than tell.

 


What We Say:

“New normal/return to normal”

What We Really Mean:

“We get things are weird right now and life doesn’t stop because of what’s going on so we’re all just trying to make the best of it until coming in contact with strangers isn’t a terrifying endeavor anymore.”

What We Should Say:

“Normal” is ever-changing. Normalize the abnormal. Progress the conversation beyond nostalgia for life before the masks. The past wasn’t perfect and there are ways we can build on that for a more exciting future.

 


Our dialogue doesn’t have to be formulaic even though the moment is indeed bleak. People are thirsty for fresh conversation and even the smallest adjustments to spice up your language will help your content stand out in the sea of uniformity.

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