According to Wikipedia: “A platitude is a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement, generally directed at quelling social, emotional, or cognitive unease. The word derives from plat, the French word for “flat.” Platitudes are geared towards presenting a shallow, unifying wisdom over a difficult topic. However, they are too overused and general to be anything more [...]
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According to Wikipedia:
“A platitude is a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement, generally directed at quelling social, emotional, or cognitive unease. The word derives from plat, the French word for “flat.” Platitudes are geared towards presenting a shallow, unifying wisdom over a difficult topic. However, they are too overused and general to be anything more than undirected statements with an ultimately little meaningful contribution towards a solution.”
Whether you’re in marketing and communications or not, you’ll see these platitudes everywhere. And for some reason, platitudes are becoming the go-to format for many lazy content marketers.
How can you avoid becoming one of those lazy content marketers?
Look And You Shall Find Platitudes … Everywhere!
Let me give you a few examples of commonly used platitudes seen everywhere in B2B-type content:
Exhibit A: “It’s important to have a strategy.”
Honestly, how many professionals would think that their brand should go without strategies for their businesses? The content marketer should instead strive to demonstrate either exactly how a strategy will affect the outcomes or how to craft a strategy that will work — preferably both.
Exhibit B: “Be patient and think long-term.”
Sure, but how? How exactly do I get rid of those pesky feelings of impatience and those internal pressures of producing results as fast as possible?
Exhibit C: “Always put the customer first.”
Once again, a perfectly valid approach to business in general: being customer-centric. It makes sense, right? But how exactly does one put the customer first? That’s the actionable type of advice we’re looking for.
Exhibit D: “You should produce epic content.”
Most professionals already grasp the concept of how good content tends to perform better than not-so-good content. Producing really, really, really good content must then be many times better than publishing content that is … well, I guess not that good?
Still, all those platitudes seen everywhere seem to “work” somehow. Why is this?
Why Platitudes Seem To Work Well
Platitude writing tends to do quite well in social media. A text loaded with obvious statements and no real knowledge can still attract quite a lot of social media engagement.
How is this possible?
For one thing, people often hit that “Like” button (or emoji-button or whatever) without even reading the actual article it refers to. Instead, their engagement reflects how they agree with the headline and how it adds to their own personal world view1. It’s probably also a psychological bandwagon-effect2 at play, a way of signal belonging to important social circles.
Now, I’m not worried about information overload as a result of too much platitude writing being published. I tend to side with Clay Shirky, on how “there’s no information overload, only filter failure.” But I do worry on behalf of brands and their communities who deserve better than to fall victims of lazy content marketing.
How To Fight Platitude Writing
If you’re a content consumer (which basically applies to all of us) would suggest the following: Please stop encouraging lazy content marketers!
Here’s a control question that you can use:
When you see someone posting content telling people how important it is to start putting out “epic content”, don’t think “oh, I agree that epic content is important” and then share it to your friends. Instead, ask yourself, is there really any type of actual knowledge being shared here? Or is it just another piece of fluffy content loaded with platitudes?
Or if you’re a content producer — how can you avoid dispensing platitudes in your own persuasive writing?
This is how you could fix it:
When you copy-edit or proofread your content, also do a platitude check. Look for obvious statements that you aren’t “bringing home”. With just a little bit of practice, it’ll become second nature to you.
Please note: The depicted platypus has nothing to do with platitudes in general, or this article in particular, not at least as far as I know. Platypuses are rather interesting animals with complex personalities and depth of character. And like content marketing without platitudes, they’re quite rare.
This post was published by Jerry Silver on October 9, 2015.
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