Maja Pawinska Sims 05 Feb 2018 // 8:00AM GMT
LONDON — The UK’s biggest businesses are squandering an opportunity to communicate clearly in their most-read pieces of written corporate content, according to a new report.
The first FTSE 50 Clarity Index, released by corporate and brand storytelling specialist Insight Agents and conducted by researchers at Sussex University, analysed the language used in the About Us page on each company’s website, plus the CEO’s overview in the annual report. They rated each text on the simplicity and clarity of the language used, rating the UK’s 50 largest companies according to the clarity of their communications.
None of the UK’s 10 largest companies by market capitalisation features in the top 10 of clearest-talking businesses. Communications giant WPP came a surprisingly low 29th in the rankings.
Aviva was rated as the best communicator and another three financial services companies are included in the top 10: RBS, Standard Chartered, and Standard Life Aberdeen. But none of the FTSE 50 was rated as an excellent communicator.
The researchers found that CEOs’ annual reviews are too often “dry, confusing, overly formal, impersonal, and relentlessly male in the language they use”. About Us pages are easier to read than CEOs’ annual reviews, but both could be much simpler and clearer.
“Too often, businesses don’t talk or sound like people,” said Insight Agents CEO Sam Knowles. “Reputation is about more than what you say about yourself, but if you get this wrong, and the CEO doesn’t use the annual review to talk simply and clearly, that is a real missed opportunity.
“Businesses need to pay greater attention to these important pieces of text. We can see evidence that they have either been dashed off at the last minute or that everyone has weighed into the draft. My view is that you need a strong editor-in-chief, and this content cannot be written by committee. Also avoid jargon and be careful how many numbers you use – people don’t remember data, they remember stories.”