That’s enough housing gobbledygook

Vector from iStock of 8 people communicating with one another

At our last team away day, we spent some time bringing our newest team member (find out more about Jim in this blog) up to speed with a lot of the housing gobbledygook that pops up in our inboxes, social feeds and, of course, annual reports.

While listing the commonly used jargon that we’re regularly telling to ‘jog on’ has secretly become a favourite pastime, our last discussion on the issue highlighted a shared frustration across the team.

I’ve previously argued that there’s a time and a place for some of the jargon that’s thrown around. For example, the use of dwelling instead of home in a development planning meeting, or covenants rather than agreement when talking about funding arrangements. But in hindsight, do these words ever really need to be used?

We could argue that it’s ok among housing teams, in meetings and reports that don’t involve residents, but wouldn’t it be better not to use them at all?

Take ‘decant’ for example. I can’t be the only one who before entering the world of housing would have seen the job title ‘decanting officer’ on Indeed five years ago and expected that a drink or two might be a perk of the job. Then been incredibly confused when reading the job description to see it has nothing to do with any form of liquid but instead about finding people temporary accommodation.

We all agree this word is confusing for those outside of the sector, not to mention dehumanising, so surely to remove the risk of it being used more widely would be better for everyone.

Making housing accessible

In our latest game of ‘Jog on Jargon’, it quickly became clear just how many barriers corporate gibberish can raise and the role we have as comms professionals in not perpetuating a continuous cycle.

Being tasked with creating content that decodes any technical language so that the final piece is interesting and accessible to the target audience is the bread and butter of most comms and PR activity. Being able to talk and understand the ‘language’ is therefore part and parcel of the job.

However, when working in a sector that is often criticised for not representing the communities and people it serves, could overhauling a lot of the overused (and often meaningless) phrases go some way in helping to attract and retain more people into the sector? And from a wider range of backgrounds?

It’s not uncommon for some words to have two meanings. But doesn’t it make sense to use the simplest word that will resonate most?

At a time when clarity in resident and stakeholder communications is more important than ever in helping organisations reach their objectives, junking jargon seems a bit of an open goal. This will be especially important when communicating with the predicted hundreds of new MPs who will be entering parliament after 4 July. They’ll be overwhelmed with messages and invitations from all quarters – making yours stand out and resonate will be crucial to getting off on the right foot.

I’m not suggesting we’re going to overcome the lack of diversity in housing just by kicking every piece of jargon to the curb. However, the words we use do matter and unfamiliar words and phrases can exclude the people you very well may be trying to communicate with.

If you fancy a jargon-free chat about housing comms or any words you’d like to throw in the bin – me and the rest of See Media team are always happy to listen.

Sara-Anne Mills Bricknell is a senior account director at See Media