Look! No, not with your eyes. “Look” is without question, the most overused word currently being used in the media. I am not sure why but for some reason, everyone is using it as a means of what we in the media training world call “flagging”, I will get to more of what that means in a minute.
Don’t believe me? Next time you watch any news interview, keep track of how many times you hear “look”. TV hosts are using it, analysts are using it, political experts, politicians, and the President loves “look”. He loves it. In fact, when I first watched him do news interviews, one of the first things I noticed was his use of “look”, as both a means of controlling his message and a means of “flagging”. I teach clients how to flag during my media training and coaching sessions. In simple terms, flagging is a technique used by the interviewee to draw attention to a key message by using “wake up” words. Wake-up words are words or phrases which have a tendency to wake-up the audience or reporter, and draw attention when you want it. As an example, you might say during an interview, “if there is one thing you should take away from this it is this….”. That is how you flag a message and subsequently, increase the odds of your key message being heard.
All of us probably have some degree of “go to” words or expressions we use everyday in communication to flag, and we don’t even know it. My youngest son is using “at the end of the day…”. Mine was “basically”. I didn’t even know I was using it as a TV news reporter until a viewer in Tucson sent me an email and pointed out that every time I was about to make a point during a live shot, I said “basically” before I made my point. Because of his feedback, I was able to eliminate that annoying and ineffective habit.
So how exactly did “look” become the most overused flagging term of 2016? Again, no clue. Is it a bad thing? That depends. If “look” becomes so cliche’ that it takes away from the primary message, than yes, it’s a bad thing.