We'll Give It To You Straight: A Bad PR Habit CEOs Have To Break

When we conduct Media Training sessions for Tanner Friedman clients, we teach them how to speak in quotable, memorable and powerful terms. This requires delivering a message in confident, declarative sentences.

But, lately, we have noticed that too many business and political leaders have a bad habit. Instead of just saying what they want to say, they dance around the message. Too many quotes are filled with terms of hesitation like “sort of” and “kind of,” which softens often important points. Here are a few examples from a recent simple online search of speeches and media interviews, delivered by actual CEOs and high-ranking elected officials. Take a look and you’ll see the clutter:

“We’re kind of at a pivotal point with the state.”

“This is kind of the starting point of an actionable agenda.”

“They need to create a company in sort of the web world.”

““You want to always sort of soften that optimism by the realization that it is a very tough business to turn around.”

“Just to sort of get it right out there…”

“So, as I kind of indicated in my comments…”

Why? We see it first-hand. In a tough economic environment, when CEOs go “on the record,” it is often under a cloud of fear. They are afraid to be too bold, as it could be controversial. Very often they are afraid to say “the wrong thing.” Their brains insert “sort of” and “kind of” into their dialogue, as a way to soften statements.

This is just a bad habit and it can be broken with practice. Look at those statements above and remove the crutches. Of course, they become more powerful, more memorable quotes, even out of context. It’s up to PR pros to flag these statements and figure out how to help their CEOs break the hesitation habit.