“About Us” are the weakest words in communications

The two words “about us” have become the weakest words in the practice of communications. Why? Simple … no one cares about your company or organization. No one has the time or inclination to care.

Customers, vendors, clients, shareholders and others only care about the value … the benefit … of your services and products to them, to their lives. Anything else is just irrelevant noise.

About us gained popularity in the late 1990s when start-up tech companies – with no services or products to sell – started using press releases as marketing flyers. They had nothing better to do. So, they used news releases to tout all the grand things about their companies … that did not actually exist. The “about us” boilerplate in press releases was born.

What started out as the use of contrived or phony news to promote what was often a falsehood at some hype-oriented “air-ware” tech company has mushroomed into a mainstream bad habit at companies and organizations, large and small, diminishing any potential importance of news in news releases.

Think about it … do you really care “about” XYZ Corporation or do you only have time to possibly be interested in how their products or services might help your own business or lifestyle … the value to you? In today’s information overload environment, we tend to tune-out and dismiss those people who talk about themselves.

Not long ago, I asked a senior communications person at the corporate headquarters of JCPenney – an iconic company in American business for more than 100 years – why they included an “About jcpenney” on each of their news releases. I asked, “Don’t you think everyone in America already knows of your company?” He laughed (with embarrassment) and said it started because JCPenney’s competitor Target did it. They just copied what Target did.

Not to pick on JCPenney, because it’s a fine company, but here is their 123-word “About us” boilerplate:

About jcpenney

jcpenney, one of America’s leading retailers, operates over 1,100 department stores throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, as well as one of the largest apparel and home furnishing sites on the Internet, jcp.com. Serving more than half of America’s families each year, jcpenney offers a wide array of private, exclusive and national brands which reflect the Company’s vision to be America’s shopping destination for discovering great styles at compelling prices. Traded as “JCP” on the New York Stock Exchange, the $17.6 billion retailer is transforming its organization to support its Long Range Plan strategies to build a sustainable, profitable enterprise that serves its customers, engages its associates and rewards its shareholders. For more information, visit www.jcpenney.net.

It’s all just corporate gobbledygook. How about saying, “To learn more about our company, visit www.jcpenney.net.”

What’s worse is that is sounds like many other “about us” statements of other companies. Who cares?!

Competitive differentiation, distinctive awareness and leadership comes from communicating in clear and simple words why audiences will benefit from your products and services. That’s called “news.”