Words on Words on Words: Internal vs. External Language

Words on Words on Words: Internal vs. External Language

We live in a world of language like fish in water. We are immersed. This immersion makes perspective difficult. As a company, what business language is useful? How can you tell if it is effective? It is just language, after all. We all use it.

“The line between internal and external language is blurring if not fading altogether.”

The changing business climate is changing the way language is used. The line between internal and external language is blurring if not fading altogether. Historically, there has been a sharp divide. Internal language was in the form of a mission statement or vision or mantra. External language was developed as a function of marketing. Sales was trained separately. Same with HR.

As silos break down, that divide no longer makes sense. Here is how we are tackling language at Bullhorn:

Make your vision public

Transparency is the new business norm. We have five key tenets that guide us and communicate what sort of people we are. Those tenets are both internal and external. We put them on proposals. We talk about them in presentations. We use them internally to help make decisions. We use them to orient new employees. But those are the easy things.

Develop a common vernacular

The difficult task facing most of us is how to be consistent when engaging with the world. Because there are so many ways to engage. We have to consider talking on the phone, over email, via the many social channels available. The reality is that consistency is not possible. That is okay. What is needed is an established way of talking. We use sets of words to describe ourselves and what we do, not a set script.

Strive for coherence

There is a trend in visual identities away from consistency and towards coherence. Language is doing the same thing. That is why a script doesn’t really work. It sounds robotic. When I describe what we do to my grandmother I say something very different than what I would say to a vice president of marketing. We leave space to talk to different sorts of people. And we leave space for individual accents. Our blog is a good example. There are several different people writing about topics we find relevant to our work. They don’t sound the same. They sound like their version of the Bullhorn experience. They are in line with the tenets we have set out. They are culturally on point.