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Gini Dietrich

Survey Says: PR Pros Use too Many Buzzwords

By: Gini Dietrich | January 15, 2013 | 
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We used to play this game in the office that didn’t really have a name. I suppose you could call it Corporate BINGO, except we didn’t fill out cards or have winners.

We had a six foot whiteboard in the kitchen and, every time someone said (what we considered) some dumb corporate language, we’d write it down on the board.

Soon, things such as “at the end of the day,” “with all due respect,” “frankly,” and “win win” were listed (we had a client who said “frankly” so much, we never believed she was actually telling the truth).

In fact, we filled that thing up and then added big sheets of poster paper on either side to keep the game going.

A Little Story

I was reminded of it while I stood in line at security in Atlanta right before the holidays and overheard a man talking to one of his female colleagues.

The conversation went like this:

Him: Hi Allison. I was hoping you can help me.

Her: (I assume she said something like, “Sure!”)

Him: I have an on-site client meeting tomorrow with 10 people and I need to order lunch.

Her: (Um, okay?)

Him: I know it’s not your job, but I have no visibility into how to order lunch. Could I send you the menus and have you help?

Her: (I don’t know what she said, but I was about to kick him in the shins. I wanted to say to him, “Have you ever ordered pizza? Then you have visibility into how to order lunch.” And, as if, because she’s female, she does have “visibility” into ordering lunch? But alas. I kept my mouth shut.)

“I have no visibility into how to order lunch.”

He really said that. And, of course, I posted it to Facebook. It also would have gone on our whiteboard as soon as I got back to the office (if we still had an office and weren’t virtual).

Survey Says

But, it turns out MBAs and wannabe executives aren’t the only professionals who speak another language.

According to a report by twelve thirty eight (which Tony Dowling so kindly sent to me a couple of weeks ago), PR professionals are the worst at using buzzwords that have no real meaning.

Each year they survey 500 journalists to find out which buzzwords, jargon, and terms PR pros use when working with them.

PR Buzzwords

Words such as “awesome” and “super excited.” In fact, I have a journalist friend who is fed up with “amazing” (which, of course, makes me use it every other word when I email her).

Following is a list of the top 20 buzzwords compiled in the survey. The words or phrases in parenthesis is an attempt to define the meaning.

  1. Issues (problems)
  2. Dynamic (likely not to be)
  3. Paradigm (a ‘silk purse’ word)
  4. Elite (i.e. you wouldn’t normally get to attend)
  5. Hotly anticipated (i.e. never heard of it)
  6. End-user (‘customer’)
  7. Influencer (probably not)
  8. Evangelist (a tendency to tweet with loads of hashtags)
  9. Deliverables (‘tasks’)
  10. Icon/iconic (‘use before 01.01.01 or never’)
  11. Rocketed (‘made modest progress’)
  12. “An astonishing x per cent” (it rarely is astonishing)
  13. Marquee event/marquee client (probably ‘very local’)
  14. Going forward (‘in the future’)
  15. Ongoing (‘a bit behind schedule’)
  16. Optimized (‘changed by consultants then changed back’)
  17. Horizontal, vertical, etc (two words in lieu of a strategy)
  18. Phygital (easy to press or swipe, we guess)
  19. SoLoMo (no idea)
  20. Well-positioned (‘hopeful but a bit scared’)

And one of my very favorites:

I loathe it when a business is described as “providing solutions.” We see this time and again and it tells us nothing.

You can download the survey and take a look yourself. Some of the examples the journalists use are downright hysterical. And some, you’ll be sad to notice, you’ve used (but, I’m willing to bet, never to use again).

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

115 comments
3HatsComm
3HatsComm

What I share for almost every buzzword bashapallooza - UnSuckit http://unsuck-it.com/ - Absotively hilarious - and spot on - some of these. FWIW.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

That is classic-I have no visibility in to orderin food. I am going to use that.

samanthamcgarry
samanthamcgarry

I agree; we are supposed to be wordsmiths yet we fall prey to these overused, misused and cliched words and phrases. We can do better! Some of the buzz words that you list - and several others are listed in my recent blog post Words to Retire in 2013 - http://www.inkhouse.net/words-to-retire-in-2013/

 

p.s. SoMoLo = social mobile local

NancyCawleyJean
NancyCawleyJean

Oh this is priceless. It seems that every year there's another word that comes along that people think they have to use, while others are true classics and stand the test of time. Don't forget "the big picture" too. You always have to look at the big picture.I LOVE the idea of the white board to track usage -- must that an ongoing deliverable. because frankly, going forward and looking at the big picture, at the end of the day, it's a win-win for all of us, with all due respect. ;)

mdbarber
mdbarber

I'd like to "drill down" this list to see what else we might extrapolate. We use these big, fancy words because we want to sound important and knowledgeable, but all it does is confuse others and make us look silly. I wish we could all stop. 

 

Having said that, I don't think this is just a PR industry problem. Having sat through briefings for other fields I think each has its own buzzwords and expressions the rest of us don't understand. The military lexicon is especially fraught with acronyms and expressions lay people don't understand. I'll never forget attending a lunch event with my husband to which all spouses were invited. The speaker started out by saying he didn't expect the civilians in the audience (at least half of it) to understand and we'd have to deal with it. Imagine the reviews that event received!

remarkmarketing
remarkmarketing

We need to determine the pivot points to identify the decision makers in the new paradigm in order to maximize coverage and accelerating throughput.  

 

Bacon.

 

Cheers,

BH 

EricSteckel
EricSteckel

I was merely excited by the title of this post, but then when I gained visibility into the list, I became super-excited. I am astonished by this fantastic bit of thought leadership. Going forward it will be an ongoing goal of mine to optimize my comments with well-positioned lingo from this marquee list. Elite influencers will hotly anticipate my dynamic opinions, rocketing this evangelist's KLOUT rating an astonishing 100% or more. Brilliant!

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

They missed my all time favorites:

 

"Circle Back"

"Client Ready"

"Per our discussion"

"Thought leader"

"Turn-Key"

"Tight turnaround"

 

And the all time loathe of my work life, "get creative but  there's no reason to reinvent the wheel, even though there are a lot of moving parts."

 

 

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

This information is not net new to me, but I still find it a value add. 

jolynndeal
jolynndeal

Love this! Will add to the checklist for press release editing.

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

Sigh, words like those listed just make me zone out.  Others i loath are: guru, ninja, diva, front - end developer (dont get me started). 

Latest blog post: Come see our new digs!

SteveWoodruff
SteveWoodruff

I have no visibility into why people use this lingo. Unless it is to obfuscate that which should be clear.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

"I do not think that word means what you think it means."

 

Industry jargon a problem all around the board.

editjules
editjules

How 'bout getting rid of 'branding' and 'guru'? I've said this before a bunch o' times but you're only a guru if you're on an Ashram in India, and branding? Please--it's A TITLE not a brand. Pshaw!

NancyCawleyJean
NancyCawleyJean

Ooops..must implement that as an ongoing deliverable is what I meant to say. But you get the bit picture.

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

 @Frank_Strong I hadn't seen the addition to SoLoMo with Co. Is it different than the original as I thought commerce was understood.

Frank_Strong
Frank_Strong

 @annelizhannan Head of mobile presented at a user conference last year. Bang up preso too. I was lukewarm on mobile until I saw this guy speak; very compelling. Gave me a lot to think about. Couple blog posts recapping the session and I'll DM you a link if you want. 

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

 @ginidietrich Just the term "complete" works for me. My previous manager "client ready" for everything. We really she just meant for it to be complete. 

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

 @Frank_Strong That would be great Frank, thank you.  I am a big fan of SoLoMo but just hadn't heard or seen of SoLoMoCo anywhere. You are just so on top of things, thank heavens I follow you ;)

Trackbacks

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  2. […] That assumption is wrong. Individuals who will someday decide whether or not to purchase your products (“end-users”) may act as though they understand—who wants to look ignorant?—but jargon blocks any chance of a genuine human connection with these audiences. […]