“About Us”

Global corporations are not generally known for their honesty and social consciousness, and this is no more apparent than in their internet promotions. Looking around at them, it almost seems like the “About Us” pages on corporate web sites are designed with a distinct Orwellian doublespeak with the expressed purpose of concealing intent rather than enlightening visitors about the company.

I didn't have a picture of a big-corporation public relations puke-bag, so this picture of a regular puke-bag will have to do.
I didn't have a picture of a big-corporation public relations puke-bag, so this picture of a regular puke-bag will have to do.

One extreme example of this is the “About Us” page for HNTB, a company about which I now know nothing despite reading their “About us” page.

The flash video at the root of the About page tells me that HNTB is “Genuine, committed, imaginative; nearing 100 years of integrity, quality of work, innovation, and building personal wealth for employee owners.” Additionally, it tells me with a bouncy graphic, “Recognized perennial industry leader,” but does not say what industry. Next we are informed with another graphic, “committed to technical excellence, innovative design, and building solutions.” I don’t know if “building” is a verb or a noun there, but if it’s a noun, we might have a clue.

And that’s it. They really don’t want us to know what their company does, and I think it’s part of a bigger, more sinister effort of corporations in general to obfuscate, confuse, and amuse the minds of the public into a state of  ignorance about what these companies do. Do they make light bulbs? Do they make safe, educational baby toys? Do they dump benzine in the ocean? Do they sell nuclear reactor parts to North Korea? Any of these could be the case based on what we have learned – meaning nothing – from their “About Us” pages. And far, very far, be it for HNTB to tell us what HNTB might stand for, if anything. (According to Wikipedia, it doesn’t stand for anything anymore.)

If you dig a little deeper (in the “History” section), I’ll grant you that you can find out what the company actually does, but wouldn’t it just be easier to say it up front. Read the front page of my web site. “Richard is a professional photographer…” No doublespeak. That might be the reason I still work in news and not in media relations. There is something straightforward and honest about reporting on events. Big corporations don’t like that. In fact, if there is a legitimate news event affecting them, the first words in their emergency meetings about it are, “What do we do for damage control?” By that they mean “hide the truth.”

Maybe I’m being naive, and the world around us is built on deceit and concealment. But as long as I have a voice, it won’t be saying that I have, “…over thirty years of integrity, honesty, and leadership.” It will say, “This is me. This is what I do.”