Communications and PR should be a creative thing. So why is it so good at strangling the life out of creativity?
by An NHS Communications Officer
Have you been ‘corpsed’?
I, like many others, left university with a dream. You know, make the world a better place and that. As someone armed with a snazzy journalism degree, I thought that I would be at the cutting edge, and my writing would help change opinions, or sumat.
I got my ‘big break’ in public sector communications. I jumped in, full of enthusiasm, with a good story, and a catchy headline, which went away to be signed off. Then came something that I’m sure others will relate to, the corporatisation of my press release, ravaged by jargon and acronyms, with an executive unwilling to budge.
So I coined a phrase…
‘Corpse’ (verb) – the activity of making a piece of creative work more corporate and therefore killing the story, innovative idea or fun.
Everyone will have examples of this. One of mine was a press release about a health robot with the headline ‘Robo Doc’ which was changed to ‘Robot helps operations.’ Wounded.
Corpsing can also eat into the fundamentals that we, communications professionals, live by every day, simple stuff like making our work easily understandable. I have heard of press releases terms like ‘key hole surgery’ delicately replaced with ‘laparoscopic’, like the surgery it is trying to describe.
I get it. They’re the experts; they’ve spent years studying it. They’re used to writing journal articles and don’t want to look like a TV talking head. But…writing for media is a completely different skill.
This means that some releases can become a battle ground, trying hold back the buzz word bombs and the acronym army. Some you win, but many you lose.
After a few drubbings, you develop defensive techniques. You turn up, press release in hand, trying to dazzle with reasons like media style, local reading age, and even ‘news hooks’. These are nothing but mere shields but sometimes it works, and you issue the release like a sneak attack in the night.
Inevitably in the end, you find yourself ‘self-corpsing’ copy because you know it won’t get through, you know your attack is too weak.
So I say we stand up and claim this word ‘corpse’ as our own. We could maybe even get it in the dictionary? Does anyone else have any examples of their work being corpsed?
Corpsing is all around us, but keep fighting the good fight, and maybe one day we’ll win.
Maybe not though, even this blog post was corpsed.
The post was written by an NHS communications officer.