Citigroup’s Doublespeak

 Citigroups Doublespeak

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Citigroup.

Dear Reader: Can we interest you in a “repositioning action”? How about something to “further reduce expenses and improve efficiency”? These were among the phrases heralding Citigroup’s announcement late last week of a major recalibration of its businesses. More interesting than the news itself was the press release; obviously passed around for management’s input prior to release, the result was two-pages of corporate doublespeak.

The message should have been simple enough: Having lagged behind its peers in recovering from the financial crisis, Citi announced it was cutting 11,000 jobs worldwide – about 4 percent of its staff – to save as much as $1.1 billion a year in expenses. Where was that crucial number regarding layoffs in the release? Buried way down in the main body of the text; the last sentence of the third paragraph read, “These actions will result in a reduction of more than 11,000 positions.” If you blinked, or were still flummoxed by the previous paragraphs of corporatespeak, you missed it.

The first three paragraphs of the Citi release are required reading for any PR. They serve as timely reminder about what happens when a simple idea is worked over and over (and over). One can assume that every conceivable stakeholder at Citi was asked to provide business input and red pen edits. The result? A longwinded press release, easily held up to ridicule. Sometimes, it might be easier to let the PR people do the talking.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Citigroup. Orwellian business-speak is trying.

The PR Takeaway: Lead with the news. It’s a simple rule of PR that’s often overlooked.  The press release announcing the “repositioning actions” (…?) secured global media coverage with the headline “Citi Announces 11K Layoffs.” When you don’t say what you mean and try to bury the lead in doublespeak, the media will make the announcement for you – in an ugly way. Next time, encourage the boardroom to keep its red marker pens to itself and let the PR people do the the job they were hired to do.

To read the release, click here.

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