It’s so refreshing when a CEO sends out something that actually sounds like a human being might have said/written it. That was the case when Zappos‘ CEO, Tony Hsieh, issued an announcement about Amazon buying Zappos.
I liked that he apologized “for the occasional use of formal-sounding language,” saying that “parts of it are written in a particular way for legal reasons.”
I liked that he set out the “top 3 burning questions” and he answered them, with #1 being “Will I still have a job?” (Of course, you could take “Your job is just as secure as it was a month ago” more than one way.)
I laughed at his answer to “Will we get a discount at Amazon?”: “No…And we’re not going to be giving the Zappos discount to Amazon employees either, unless they bake us cookies and deliver them in person.”
I liked the cover-up for legal phrasing: “Can you talk like a banker and use fancy-sounding language that we can print in a business publication?” and “Can you talk like a lawyer now?”, followed by “Can you please stop?” “okthxbye.”
In sharp contrast are the weasel words that came from a surprising source: Sesame Street. Yes, the folks behind all those clever, catchy rewrites of contemporary songs issued a news release that they were culling 20% of the workforce; they had “to operate with fewer resources in order to achieve our strategic priorities.” Oh, let me think, that would be cutting staff? Why yes, 67 people in fact.
If you’re helping a CEO issue a statement of any kind, please, please do your best to make him/her sound like the human he/she undoubtedly is.