Now as much as ever, it’s critical for all American businesses to convey one characteristic — integrity. If people don’t believe your communicators when they speak, your days as a profitable business are numbered. Michael Sebastian of Ragan.com offers a few key phrases to avoid when speaking with reporters or the public, lest you seem like you’re hiding something:
Ever prefaced a statement with, “To be perfectly honest, I …”?
Look out. That’s a verbal crutch—sometimes called a throat-clearing statement—and when speaking to the media it could hurt a spokesperson’s credibility.
Barbara Gibson, a social media trainer and former chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), discovered this phenomenon while assessing the strengths and weaknesses of corporate spokespeople.
To perform the analysis, a journalist interviewed individual spokespeople for 40 minutes, then the journalist and a PR assessor rated their abilities across 12 key skills. Among the areas she examined was whether journalists considered the spokesperson “open and honest.”
“We found there is a very big difference between being open and honest and seeming so,” Gibson explained in an email to PR Daily.
She began by analyzing various aspects of spokespeople’s performances to learn why journalists think they’re not truthful when they are, in fact, telling the truth.
“I found that the higher the number of uses of verbal crutches within an interview, the lower the score in this area,” she said. “Then I also realized that those spokespeople [who use] what I identified as ‘honesty-related’ verbal crutches … almost always had lower scores.”
Four of these “honesty-related” crutches are:
1. “Let’s be clear”;
2. “To be perfectly honest”;
4. “Just between you and me.”