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How to please your customers and clients — Doctor’s Orders! 10 September 2018

So there they were, Louise Minchin and Dan Walker, chatting to their guest on the bright red Breakfast News sofa at 6.45am.  I’m watching it out of the corner of my eye as I sit on BBC South East’s bright red sofa, up next to read our three minute bulletin to our regional audience.  And I’m thinking: what a powerful interview this is, and what a powerful message for anyone trying to communicate with clients and customers, or set a culture to their staff. 

Dan and Louise were interviewing a Kidney Specialist.  The reason he was in the news?  Because more than ten years ago he decided he was going to do something revolutionary.  Instead of writing to fellow consultants about their patients, copying in the patients, he was going to write direct to the patients themselves, copying in the consultants.  

What’s more, he was going to strip out the jargon.   A ‘chronic’ condition would be described as a condition that’s ‘been going on quite a while.’  ‘Acute’ as something that had ‘come on quickly.’  It caused a right rumpus at first.  The medical profession just didn’t DO that sort of thing.  But then patients started writing to him, thanking him for speaking to them in their language.  Word spread.  The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges got wind of it.  So did the Royal College of GPs.  Opposition fell away.  Today’s news was that it’s now been built into new guidelines. 

As a BBC TV journalist, I take great delight in hacking out the jargon in complex stories, writing in words that our audiences actually use.  You won’t catch me referring to a council’s multi-agency approach or a government report that’s been redacted.  So it was heartening to see that when it communicates with its patients, the medical profession is cutting out this sort of nonsense, too.

Do you use a lot of jargon in your workplace?  Are there some phrases and cultures in your business that just get repeated because nobody puts their hands up and asks what they actually mean?  Of course, technical language is entirely appropriate for an audience that understands the technical terms — consultant to consultant, for example.  But if it’s a different type of audience — an audience gulping some coffee while shooing the kids off to school, perhaps — then it’s surely in everyone’s interests to speak … everyone’s language.  

If you’d like your staff to communicate more confidently, my Newsroom Bootcamp might make a refreshing addition to your business skills training — high energy, in your office, with instant takeaways they can implement the next day.  Call for a chat — 07850 188620.  I promise there’ll be no jargon. 

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