grabEvery now and again I see a tongue in cheek write up about jargon and vocabulary use that makes us communications professionals have a little laugh, then a think and then look at ourselves in the mirror. This recent one by Louise Powney is the best I’ve read in a long while and, cough, quite close to home. Take a read and pop back! It spawned this post on a similar theme. 

I, and no doubt many other comms professionals, have a little test to check things are on track and still making sense. I call it the ‘mum or bloke in the pub test’. Ask yourself “would your mum/man in the pub understand?” Answer yes; great, crack on. No; you’d best edit it some more then.

Most times I use the pub test to help people I work with see we ‘might not be quite there yet’ and to agree on a better way forward. And that’s helpful. Most times.

Now part of my busy schedule and professional development is to ‘keep myself abreast of industry practice’. I attend various events and conferences, budget permitting, and sign up to various webinars. I both share and learn from peer networks too. Some of my development is on the job learning and shadowing and part is just me reading up and nosing around.

Sometimes I rely on external agencies to advise what the market has to offer as we can’t do everything, especially at certain peak times. Every now and again we need specialist support. I welcome this and have worked with some really creative and helpful people.

I do all this so I can increase my comms toolbox and professional offer. In turn it helps the people I work with get a better bang for their buck and better outcomes. The bottom line being that people know what is going on, easily understand what it all means, what choices they may have and then what to do.

In doing this I’ve noticed what seems a bit of a trend. There are some new kids on the block; potential new tools for my toolbox. They may have been around for a while but I must have been busy doing the job and not looking up. Had I missed a trick? Exciting I thought.

The first time I noticed was last year at a conference when I found myself in one of those graveyard sessions at the end of the day. One where you think I’ll just stay in this seat and see what’s next as I’ve not heard of ‘Inbound Marketing’ before and it might be useful. My initial thoughts were “what marketing?”

I initially listened intently but being somewhat over-tired soon got to the stage of ‘is that all it is?’ so I started my own in-session research as I’d deduced there probably must be the complementing ‘Outbound Marketing’. I Googled it. There it was and ‘Content Marketing’ too with some cracking explanations from the Institute:

“Useful content should be at the core of your marketing”

And, helpfully, summarising the official definition;

“… the art of communicating with your customers without selling…delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent” 

Not taking too much more notice of the session I assigned the learning action to the ‘must check this stuff out for real when I get back to work’ as The Emperor’s New Clothes story came to mind.

Many months on from that session I got a cold call marketing email. One of those personalised emails which ‘reached out’ to me ‘personally’.  As I mentioned I’m happy to find out what the market has to offer so I read it. At least three times. It was from a ‘boutique agency’ uniquely placed to offer bespoke solutions because of its, well, boutiqueness I suppose.

I have another test I sometimes do similar to the pub test. I call it the ‘Apprentice boardroom test’ – imagine what Lord Sugar would say and what the outcome would be if you tried to sell him that approach?

Out of curiosity I Googled ‘boutique agency’ and it is apparently a thing. I know now and so do you. You’re welcome.

Good luck to them all, though I’m not sure what new value they bring but I’m happy to be enlightened.

I try really hard to promote and uphold the integrity of my profession of communications. That includes providing the best support I can to help explain or promote whatever I’m working on. I’ve always thought the various PR v Marketing definitions a bit irrelevant as it’s all communications. I’m simple that way and these recent new kids on the block aren’t helping me change my thinking. I know others probably won’t agree and I try not to do a disservice to other communicators but I think we all have a responsibility to talk sense.

I tweeted a summary of the above to see if my network might help me out.


I got no responses but instantly got 14 new followers. All content or inbound marketing gurus with tens of thousand followers.

So I asked them.

No inbound content to make me more intelligent.

As I said, I’m happy to be enlightened.