Gini Dietrich

The Big Question: Which PR Buzzwords Must Die?

By: Gini Dietrich | March 24, 2017 | 

The Big Question: PR Buzzwords Must DiePR buzzwords are a double-edged sword for our industry.

We are responsible for many of them gaining traction in the first place (see what I did there?), but we’re also the first ones to call for pitching them into the thought leadership abyss.

That’s why for this week’s Big Question we asked: What buzzwords should PR pros banish?

Here’s what you told us.

50 PR Buzzwords to Stop Using NOW

Here are the 50 most-frequently mentioned PR buzzwords from our entirely unscientific—but extremely fun—polling:

  1. Bandwidth
  2. Buckets
  3. Build buzz
  4. “Cascade the purpose”
  5. “Circle back”
  6. Disrupt
  7. Dynamic
  8. End user
  9. Engagement
  10. Epic
  11. Exclusive
  12. Game-changer
  13. Ground-breaking
  14. Guru
  15. Honored
  16. Humanize
  17. Impressions
  18. “Industry leader”
  19. Influencer
  20. Innovative
  21. Jedi
  22. Leading
  23. Leverage
  24. “Low-hanging fruit”
  25. Market-leader
  26. “Marketing alignment”
  27. Massage
  28. Maven
  29. “Next level”
  30. Ninja
  31. Nugget
  32. Pipeline
  33. Positioning
  34. Revolutionary
  35. Runway
  36. “Sets the new standard”
  37. Solution
  38. Spin
  39. Storytelling
  40. Strategic
  41. Synergy
  42. “Thought leadership”
  43. Top
  44. “Touch base”
  45. Transparency
  46. Trending
  47. Utilize
  48. Wizard
  49. World-class
  50. Yummy

The Influencer Backlash

Despite the high levels of interest and investment in influencer marketing, PR pros have had it with self-proclaimed influencers—and brands throwing money at them.

Influencers = most overhyped because (please don’t hate me for saying this) PR at least in my experience doesn’t understand the full spectrum of influencer metrics.

Until that day comes (fluency in influencer metrics in the PR world), then PR shouldn’t use the word ‘influencer’ freely.

The giant PR firms’ influencer vetting is dreadful. Trust me, I’ve seen it first-hand since 2012.—Alex Yong

Katie agrees with Alex.

In my opinion, the PR buzzword that has lost virtually all meaning is ‘influencer’—thanks in large part to its overuse and incorrect application.

While influencer campaigns are certainly popular and common and are a viable channel for PR agencies to drive brand awareness, the definition of an influencer is largely in flux.

Is it someone with 1,000+ Twitter followers, a new YouTube star with a niche but loyal audience, or a celebrity with millions of Instagram followers?

The emergence of new platforms has opened the door for just about anyone to be considered an influencer but determining who is worth pursuing for a PR campaign can be difficult.

The real key to a successful campaign is in the metrics—a true influencer must be evaluated on their exposure, their level of participation in a conversation relevant to your client, and their ability to drive ROI through a call to action that has a tangible/measurable result for your client.

Until then, PR agencies choosing largely irrelevant, albeit popular personalities, continues to reinforce why influencer is a PR buzzword in need of refinement.— Katie Creaser

Your “Disruption” Isn’t Ground-breaking, Either

Start-up disruption has seemingly given us an endless stream of innovative, ground-breaking new technology we can leverage…or has it just given us more PR buzzwords to annoy journalists with?

My least favorite buzzword is ‘disruptive’—startups are massively ‘disrupting’ some industry, but then you read the press release and realize that they have in fact found a cheaper way to produce and sell belt buckles.

It’s a great achievement on its own, does it really need to be hyped as ‘disruptive’ to make the news?

I’ve started to replace the phrase with ‘tickling the industry giants’ in my head when i read, it’s more fun that way.—Iva Glavinic

Jason says the jargon we use has jumped the shark.

As someone who spends hours each week reading and writing press content, the thing that makes me cringe the most (and often move on to the next pitch) is the abuse of tired jargon.

Granted, it’s difficult to surmise when a hip indie buzzword has jumped the shark.

One way to not sound douchey is to just clearly say what you mean instead of regurgitating last week’s ‘low hanging fruit.’

Jargon doesn’t make you an ‘influencer’ and it most definitely doesn’t qualify you as a ‘disruptor’ in ‘the space’—it kind of just makes you sound like that guy on the conference call who’s trying too hard. — Jason Myers

And Lindsey says no idea is an original one.

As a publicist, the most over-hyped PR buzzword we need to banish is ‘groundbreaking.’ Most ideas/products/services are not innovative and have all been created before.

Companies are now marketing the same products that they’ve had for years, adding a new color or upgrade and calling it groundbreaking. That doesn’t make it groundbreaking or newsworthy for that matter. It’s simply re-branding. — Lindsey Walker

Honing Our PR Skills for the Future

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of PR, and how our jobs are going to change in the next three to five years, thanks to continuing technological advances.

It can be hard to keep up!

We all know we need to keep our skills sharp, and continue to build them as the nature of our work changes.

But where should we focus first?

That’s why this week’s Big Question is:

What is the most important skill for modern PR pros to master to be successful over the next three years, and why?

You can answer here, in our Slack community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

And let me incentivize you a bit: If you answer the question and we feature your answer, you get a follow link to your site.

I’ll even let you choose which page you’d like us to link to.

So get to answering!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • “Authentic”

  • paulakiger

    I love this but admit I feel a little sorry for “yummy.”

    • Now that you mention it, I agree.

    • Haha, I actually had an instant frown when I saw yummy on the list.
      But also it got wondering if someone really uses it (professionally) when it’s not a food-related release. :/

      • paulakiger

        I’m curious about that AND not that I want the Spin Sucks crew to have to do more work, I’m curious about the ranking by priority (as opposed to alphabetical, which also satisfies my brain in a different way).

        • I’d actually love the priority ranking just to see what would be taken as a proper measure. Amount of usage, how often it’s misused or some sort of “how likely to make you cringe score”. Any ideas?

          • paulakiger

            Maybe we can coax at least a “top 10” list out of our friends at Spin Sucks (and FWIW I’d be willing to do the tabulations if someone could get me the data). With my spare time and all.

          • Well, I might get some usage data with Mediatoolkit. It might be a good start. 😀

        • I believe it was a person who was in food-related communications. I could see how it would grate the fiftieth time you saw that word over the course of a day…

  • Great list! Love that “storytelling” is on there. Everything is supposedly a story these days. Inspirational quotes, customer testimonials, ANYTHING on video or featuring an infographic. Misunderstood, misused and abused …

    • Dang it! My brain is failing me right now. I feel like I should have a funny come-back to this, but I have nothing.

  • paulakiger

    For the “next three years” question, let’s see if I can answer it without invoking any of the 50 overused buzzwords. I think whereas there is so much progress in technology, AI, and other whiz-bang things, the real victory will go to those who (while mastering the techie stuff) have the ability and willingness to devote time and energy to old-fashioned connections even, GASP!, writing letters and making connections the old-school way.

    • What?!? People still write letters??

      • paulakiger

        Would you BELIEVE it?

  • Definitely guilty of many of these…but I will say that as soon as a client claims their service or product is “groundbreaking,” I immediately offer 20 different adjectives to steer them away from that buzzword. LOL

    • It’d be fun to have a BINGO card that you take into meetings with clients and drop a coin down on a square when they say stuff like that. It’d teach them really quickly to stop using jargon.

      • paulakiger

        Ask and you shall receive (and this is just one of MANY options). There should also be some kind of communications/PR/buzzword Cards Against Humanity!

  • Thanks for including me Gini. This is the first time I’m hearing “Cascade the purpose” {cringe}, and I already dislike it, even if I eventually Google its meaning, if my weekend is utterly boring

    • paulakiger

      I think it may be a transfer from Agile or one of those project management models (?).

      • I have been assigned to “cascade the purpose” in the past. Blech.

        • What does that even mean?! LOL!! A few years ago, I was standing in the security line at LAX, behind a guy who was very clearly showing off his MBA speak. I’ll have to find exactly what he said (It was so ridiculous, I wrote it down), but the gist of it was that he needed his assistant to order lunch for a meeting. The unfortunate thing is that is not how he said it.

  • Robb Wexler

    Can people stop “reaching out” to my “team?”

    It always sounds like Diana Ross is trying to get in touch with the Cubs.

    • I’m going to reach out to the Cubs to see about front row seats for opening day.

  • Joel Dan Gershbein

    Well, Gini, unless we can come up with suitable substitutes, many of these words are going to stay on the list. Some may never be replaced. Others are just simply too tough to avoid and continue to pepper our writing and speaking by default. I notice that “authenticity” didn’t make it on this list. I have it in the pool for next year.

    • paulakiger

      YES. (And I fall prey to using “authenticity” too — it just works sometimes.)

    • I am surprised authenticity didn’t make it, either! But next year, for sure.

  • Edward M. Bury

    First, please don’t let my friend Gini Dietrich read this. I don’t want to feel her wrath. (Would “wrath” be considered a buzzword?) Second, I do not comprehend the value of this type of exercise. As communicators, we should know what words to employ, and to avoid, in order to deliver an effective message. In my current position, managing technology transfer for a transportation research department, one word that often surfaces is mobility. One can say it’s a “buzzword” of sorts in transportation and urban planning. But it’s appropriate and scholarly studies are structured on enhancing mobility. My point: If a word is appropriate, use it. Now that I’ve run this idea up the flagpole, let’s see who will salute it.

    • paulakiger

      I see your point but I think the goal of a piece like this is to remind us to be accurate in how we portray ourselves and our profession. For example, we “ping” each other but a technical “ping” is something so technical and so specific that it is far afield from “contact someone via a direct and instantaneous messaging option if you have something brief and urgent to say.” “Ping” may be a bad example but in the case of a term like “guru,” “thought leader,” or “ninja” (except for Laura P.), I really feel someone who calls themselves that (thought leader) or hires someone to portray them as that is highly unlikely to really be a thought leader — and we should be careful with the terms we use.

    • And I’ll add to what Paula said. Our jobs, as communicators, are to help people communicate in the most simple language possible. That does not mean we should adapt to jargon, but work to use better vocabulary that doesn’t exclude someone or make them feel stupid.

      A really great example of this is, a few years ago I was working with a trade reporter with whom I have a great relationship. She said to me, “Can you tell me what c-suite means?” I laughed out loud because she works with the leaders of Fortune 10 companies, but she had no idea what that meant. I explained it and then went back to our client and forbid them from ever saying it again.