Lucy Kellaway

Twitter's Anthony Noto (Getty)

On Monday, Anthony Noto, the CFO of Twitter got into a shocking muddle and sent what was meant to be a direct message as a tweet to all his followers.

It said “I think we should buy them. He is on your schedule for Dec 15 or 16 — we will need to sell him. i have a plan.” Chaos ensued. The tweet was swiftly removed – but not before everyone got terrifically excited about it. Lots of people are now trying to work out which company it is that Twitter is so keen to buy. Other pieces are saying that the balls-up by the CFO is proof that Twitter’s technology is too clunky, and that explains why it isn’t growing as fast as it might.

Maybe; what interests me about the blunder is something else. Something far more cheering. Read more

Lucy Kellaway

Composing an email

Bcc: useful, but dangerous  © Ian Dagnall/Alamy

To bcc, or not to bcc? Is it OK to send out “blind carbon copies” of emails, so that the person to whom they are addressed has no idea that other people are reading them too?

According to Debrett’s Guide to British Etiquette it is not OK. It is sneaky. Blind copying, says the arbiter of manners for the past two centuries, should be used “discerningly as it is deceptive to the primary recipient”.

Instead, Debretts suggests that if you want A to see the email you’ve just written to B, but don’t want B to know that A is reading it too, you forward the email to A with a short note explaining why it is confidential.

This is a rotten solution. First, it takes longer. Second, to forward a private email strikes me as every bit as sneaky as sending a blind copy. Read more

Lucy Kellaway

This is the last day of my Golden Flannel award blogs, and I want to thank you for all your fine, discerning judging so far, and to ask you to rule on two final categories.

The first is for the best (worst) rebranding of a common object. It is one of life’s grand mysteries why marketing people are so keen on turning something that people need and want into something entirely baffling, but it seems they are.
Countless heroic rebrandings took place in 2013, of which the finest three were: Read more

Lucy Kellaway

Some readers may remember Martin Lukes, the late CEO of a-b glöbâl, who tragically died three years ago when skydiving as part of a team building exercise.
The jargon-spouting executive, who wrote a column in the FT about his life and works, was most famous for coining the term “creovation”, part creativity and part innovation, but more blue sky than either.
Since then there have been a thousand imitators, who have taken two perfectly good words and put them together to make an ugly monstrosity that means nothing at all. General Electric was the first to copy Martin Lukes when it created a whole movement based on something called “Ecomagination”, which was pretty good, though not quite as creovative as the original.
This year’s entries are as follows:

Iconicity.  Read more

Lucy Kellaway

Today’s prize is for a person, not for a word. It is awarded to a big-name CEO who in the course of 2013 has shown outstanding dedication to raising the jargon bar across all touch points.

Last year’s Chief Obfuscation Champion was John Chambers at Cisco who wrote the following lines in a memo to staff “We’ll wake the world up and move the planet a little closer to the future” – thus managing to be both banal and grandiose all at once.

This year there are four strong contenders for 2013 COC. I think my favourite is the last, though as I had never heard of him before, I’m not sure that he qualifies. Please tell me what you think. Your vote counts. Read more

Lucy Kellaway

The next category in my Golden Flannel Awards covers grammatical atrocities including “nerbs” (nouns masquerading as verbs) and “vouns” (verbs masquerading as nouns). These have long been a mainstay in the jargon space – think “to task” and “to action” and “to architect” – but I hope you will agree with me that this year’s shortlist is even better than usual. Read more

Lucy Kellaway

The next prize in my Golden Flannel Awards 2013 is the COMMUNICATIONS CUP.
This is awarded for the most awful way of suggesting that two people meet, email or talk. As I explained yesterday, I’m asking you to cast your vote below: this year’s awards are truly democratic.

As a renowned thought leader in the jargon space, I am intrigued by this category. Meeting, talking on the phone and emailing are all pretty straightforward, so you wouldn’t have thought new words were needed to describe them. But evidently they are, which explains why this category continues to dazzle and amaze year after year. Previous winners have included: to reach out, to circle back and to revert. All three are terrific, and all are still in use. However, in 2013 there have been many additions of which the best (worst) are: Read more

Lucy Kellaway

Firing with finesse: George Clooney played a downsizing expert in the film 'Up in the Air'

Every year at around this time I hand out prizes for the finest examples of corporate drivel written or uttered in the last twelve months. The point of my Golden Flannel Awards (now in their splendid 8th year) is to celebrate business leaders and companies that have gone the extra mile to push the envelope when it comes to creovative, best-of-breed drivel. As I’ve often pointed out, the great thing about the bullshit market is that it only has a bull phase, which means that every year the awards go on getting better (or worse).
This year, in recognition of the sheer scale and maturity of the bull industry, I’ve decided to conduct the Flannel Awards in a more organised way. In the past I’ve chosen the winners myself. But this year I want FT readers to help me. Every day until Christmas I’ll be posting shortlists for a different category on this blog and I would like you to tell me which you think deserves the prize. The shortlists are short, as I’m only putting forward things that I think are a) new b) excruciatingly awful. However, if anyone has come across any more worthy examples, let me know. The glorious winners will be announced in my first column of 2014. Without more ado, here is the first category: Read more

Lucy Kellaway

The latest video from UBS is a corker. I suggest you watch it at once. And when you’ve finished, watch it again: this one grows on you. It isn’t awful in a screaming obvious way like the famous Bank of America video with the executive singing U2’s One.

Instead there is a bald UBS banker with a Danish accent photographed in an empty theatre, waving his hands about and talking earnestly about his plans to make rich people richer. Read more

Lucy Kellaway

Two years ago, I awarded Angela Ahrendts a prize. The chief executive of Burberry, I thought, should be honoured for her tireless services to business jargon.

And so I made her my winner for Outstanding Services to Bunkum in recognition of the most baffling paragraph ever written by a CEO in an annual report. In her statement in the 2011 report she wrote the immortal words: Read more

Lucy Kellaway

First came Ben & Jerry’s. Now we have a new brand: Steve & Stephen. It sounds like a men’s hairdressing salon, but turns out to be the sign-off used by Steve Ballmer and Stephen Elop in their open letter telling the world that Steve at Microsoft has bought Stephen’s Nokia handsets.

The effect leaves me feeling slightly queasy. The ampersand usually belongs to more formal pairings – Johnson & Johnson or Dun & Bradstreet – and to see it joining two first names like that gives the new “brand” a cheeky, snappy feel. Read more