Hyperbole: The Most Dangerous Concept Ever
Apologies for haphazardly striking a precarious spark with my title, but I desired one final flicker of hyperbole before I jettison it to an island of deplorable linguistic facets like the “Oxford comma” and the majority of portmanteau. This last week has taken my distaste for exaggerated news, and pushed it to a fever pitch.
“Blizzard of the Century!”
“Storm of MONSTER Proportions!”
“RUN TO ARUBA BEFORE THE GREAT SQUALL OF 2015!”
Ok, so only the first two are in the ballpark, but the current climate has me wishing for a jaunt to Aruba. Despite the massively underperforming winter storm Juno – at least in the majority of the Greater NYC Area – a sunny beach is always welcome with wind chills meeting their billing.
Newscasters and producers will rebut with the trite adage that it’s “better to be over-prepared than under-prepared,” but belaboring displays of historical snowfall isn’t improving preparedness. It’s exacerbating panic instead of inspiring the calm formulation of plans, as the news should strive for.
But realistic projections and experts discussing proper preparations don’t command the same eyeballs as fear-mongering broadcasts. It’s far too easy for organizations to look at the short-term repercussions of panic and accept them as the cost of doing business. But reaching a critical mass of hype for every storm is a dangerous precedent.
Not only does it dilute Weather People’s credibility, it inevitably dissuades some who are exposed to real climatic danger from proper preparations in the future. It’s time for communications professionals on both sides of the microphone to back away from the puffery that has run roughshod over headlines, press releases and channels like Twitter and LinkedIn.
I rarely use hyperbole in my accounts. In fact, I’m more like a New Englander, always looking to ‘deflate’ my descriptions before they spin into grandeur. But now, I’m pledging to remove it from future editorial content. And you should too.
Let’s peel back the layers of hyperbole that have built insurmountable barriers to conveying true value, and get back to what we are meant to do; responsibly communicate with audiences who need the information we have.
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