Five Phrases To Keep Out of Your CEO’s Mouth

The late Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, and former Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher all have something in common: they’re CEOs who have demonstrated authenticity, a trait deemed highly important by bloggers who cover business news, according to a new survey by the 10 company and Gotham Research Group.

The research showed bloggers would like CEOs to acknowledge the mistakes and excesses of corporate America to show that they are in touch with reality, even if the CEO’s company has shown no excesses or crimes.

What are some telltale signs a CEO is being inauthentic? Avoid these five phrases if you want your client to develop a reputation in line with the Buffets of the world:

-“Win-win situation”: I think this one hit its effectiveness peak in the 1980s. Bloggers point out that it instantly raises suspicions, because so few business deals really are win-win. Be honest.

-Thinking outside the box: Seen as complete corporate jargon, it’s time to put this one back in its box.

“We’re not here to talk about the past”: Especially if “the past” was this morning. Sports teams use this cliché a lot.

-“We’re an innovative company”: I sure hope so! No reporter wants to get stuck covering redundant, tired corporations with nothing new to offer. This word is so overused, it’s seen as an empty promise.

And we have saved the best for last …

-“Executive X is stepping down to spend more time with his family”: The classic. Everyone knows this means said executive was forced out. A simple online search of news shows this phrase used from here to Australia recently, to describe a mayor , a school board member, a fire commissioner, a heavyweight champ, a news director and a football coach.

“Authentic CEOs are real,” says Clare DeNicola, principal and co-founder of the 10 company. “They avoid corporate-speak and engage in a dialogue that is specific and honest. When a blogger is looking to speak with the person in charge, he’s looking to speak to the ‘person,’ not the ‘in charge.’”

The report is based on 10 one-on-one in-depth interviews with prominent bloggers who cover corporate news for top national, regional, and trade news outlets. It was conducted in December.