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September 07, 2011


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Sheryl Roehl

As we both know too well, this is unfortunately all too typical at Fortune 500 companies and really companies everywhere. Even when PR folks earnestly try to write simply and clearly, the executives reviewing a release usually add the gobbledygook back into it.

Brian Kardon

A great example, David, of a missed opportunity to communicate clearly. Curiously, the sacked CEO, Carol Bartz, was incredibly clear in her goodbye email to Yahoo employees when she wrote: "I've just been fired over the phone by Yahoo's chairman of the board."


Perhaps they should focus on innovating their HR processes to treat humans like humans. While Bartz clearly struggled for 36 months as Brian points out above she seems to have figured out how to work the social media PR machine better than Yahoo's PR department. Great and timely post as always David!

David Meerman Scott

Brian - That's amazing. I didn't see that. It would appear that on the communications battle, Bartz is the winner.

Dragan Mestrovic

David you wrote a killer article again!

There lack of communication ability brought Yahoo where it stands right now.

A great example what happens if businesses do not embrace the New Rules of Marketing and PR and are unable or unwilling to communicate in real time. ;)

Bradley H. Smith

This was a release they felt they had to send, and thus filled the page with jargon to strategically make it unreadable but be in compliance with RegFD. As soon as it was released, the were on the phone with The Street to tell the story. Of interest- share price rose 5%.

Generally, pubic companies issue PR mitigate news, not communicate it.

David Meerman Scott

Bradley - right. But I don't think RegFD is ever an excuse for crappy communications.

Elias Shams

Funny as I just finished watching this video, then I read your post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zq4A1uCQ1w0

Remco Janssen

Wow, this is a nice one David. But perhaps Gobbledygook has a purpose after all, the release is so poorly written that journo's who are covering the company need to call someone within, thus enabling Yahoo to tell there story directly. Although I sincerely believe there are better ways that lead to a (destroyed) Rome....

Johnny Russo

Ugh. This sounds like a manufacturing industry press release. That’s what I love about the Google instructional and PR videos. They are by real employees who talk to us. They are not manufactured words.

David Meerman Scott

Remco - that would be an interesting strategy if that was their intention. Bradley seems to agree with you.

Steve Lubetkin

David, the funniest line in this is the phrase "our primary objective is to leverage the Company's leadership..."

They leveraged Carol right out of the company!


Wow. A couple things that made me laugh. First, the gobbledygook is a direct quote! You'd think the writer would at least try to make it sound like actual conversation. Second, the legal disclaimer is almost as long as the press release itself. I've never seen that before. Prior to reading this post I had no interest in investing in Yahoo. Now I have even less!

A Facebook User

Great post! I think Yahoo's PR gobbledygook is equivalent to the Average Joe's love affair with the words, "literally" and "absolutely." We may as well drop them both completely out of conversation. Literally.

Barbara Grace

I read one in a medical journal today from a doctor describing lifestyle modifications for patients with this 'wordoratti': ... "patients should avoid nocturnal sleep posture (elevation of torso)" ... hmmmm, did he mean "don't lie flat on your back"?

Jeff Robinson

A couple things to keep in mind.
#1 Yahoo is a publicly traded company that must adhere to Sarbanes Oxley rules and regulations when issuing a PR.
#2 Yahoo may be limiting the scope of the PR to protect itself from any possible lawsuits.

David Meerman Scott

Jeff - In a previous career, I was a on officer of two public companies in charge or marketing and PR.

As I said to Bradley above, those regulations have nothing to do with saying that you cannot use clear communications. Put all that crap in the disclaimer at the bottom, but have the Chairman say something using language he'd use in a real conversation.

CW LaFontaine

Actually, I personally took something out of the way this press release was written.

"We have no clue what we are going to do and are hoping against hope that the next person we put in charge will save us."

Besides losing the message, all Goobledygook does is give the appearance that a company really has something to hide. Usually that they don't know what they are doing.


I bet they paid someone 10 grand to work out this great 'mission statement' in a 3 hour leadership workshop. :-)

Stan Dubin

They would've gotten considerable more mileage with:

"Our Chairman wasn't cutting it. So we axed him. If you know someone who could replace him, IM, DM or EM us."

(of course a bit of liberty with "EM" meaning email.)

Niall Harbison

Ironically the one thing that Yahoo needs most is innovation! The fact that they talk about it so much means they will probably never get it back in to their actual culture ever again!

Jim Younkin III

Great post. When reading these type of press releases my eye tend to glaze over. The amount of marketing speak is just over whelming. I wrote a post over on my blog (http://www.jimyounkin.com/2011/10/cutting-through-marketing-speak-and.html) attempting to break down what (if anything) this specific press release said. The results about what I'd expect.

I feel bad for marketing of PR people who feel to "hog-tied" that this is the only sort of work they can produce.


Jeff- What are Sarbanes Oxley rules and regulations?

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