Unique, disruptive, innovative. From Silicon Valley to New York’s own “Silicon Alley,” PR people tend to use these tech buzzwords in press releases and marketing materials. They wind up in pitch decks, tech journalists’ inboxes, and in business meetings. We’ve all used them at one point or another — but shame on us.
Tech culture is well-known for its overuse of buzzwords. And, although buzzwords can serve as convenient shorthand for complex thoughts, it’s not long before these terms become tired and worn out. They can even become obnoxious.
Here are 10 of the most eye roll- inducing tech buzzwords and marketing speak that PR folk should try to avoid in 2021.
Disruptive – In a technology PR context, disruption is not only overused, but misused. The problem? Few of these technologies or products are actually disruptive. And, the truth is, a company can be extremely successful without being disruptive. The word is used to imply success, but that implication is often incorrect.
Big Data – Big Data is overused because it’s so often used to describe any kind of data. Technically it refers to a set of data so large that traditional technology is unable to analyze it. Data about shoppers’ click actions on a large retailer’s website (think Amazon or Alibaba) would be a good example. The abuse of this term in business meetings, pitches, and press releases has turned it into nothing more than a cliche. As the words are coming out of one’s mouth, the receiver has already begun to daydream that they’re somewhere more interesting.
Artificial Intelligence – The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) is thrown around quite a bit. It’s important to note that AI is a broad term that refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The word may also apply to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving. With that said, however, AI has suffered from being overextended and overmarketed. It should be used only when AI is truly a key feature of a product or service, not to refer to a little automation.
Groundbreaking – Much like “disruptive,” the word is tired and often inaccurate. Very few products or technologies are truly groundbreaking. And, that’s because not many actually create a new market where none existed. Some of the technologies that have earned the right to be considered groundbreaking include the telephone, personal computers, electric cars, and… you get the picture.
World’s leading – Straight up hogwash. This is a buzz phrase that tries to imply something but actually says nothing. It’s as puffy a term as one can get.
Innovative – Innovative is one of the most overused terms in PR, marketing and business. Its overexposure has probably caught more attention than actual innovative technologies themselves. Plus, as a negative result of our overuse of the term, there’s been a loss of understanding when we say that more innovation is needed in a particular field or industry. Actions have consequences, people.
Ecosystem – The word “ecosystem” actually has a pretty rich meaning. It is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. These biotic and abiotic components are linked through nutrient cycles and energy flows. However, thanks to its constant use as a buzzword in tech marketing, PR and business, it has lost all meaning.
Next-generation – This phrase is used to describe a product that has been developed using the latest technology and will probably replace an existing product due to its technological leap forward. Yet, again, overuse has made it confusing. Most of us are now unsure when something is actually next-generation, or if it’s just the current generation trying to be cool.
Actionable Insights – This is often thrown out in discussions about Big Data, but it doesn’t add much clarity. It refers to data that a company can then use to take concrete action, usually to identify causes of problems and their solutions. Yet there must be a better way to communicate what a company is doing with data and analytics. These words imply that lots of data is useless, and considering that businesses pour millions of dollars into data collection and analysis, it seems a poor choice of words at the very least.
Leverage – Did you know that the term leverage actually has technical definitions in science as well as finance? You can use it in everyday speech and people will understand that you’re not actually referring to mechanical advantage, of course. But, the word is now becoming so common as a synonym for “use” that it has lost its true meaning. Let’s breathe life back into the word before we totally kill it off with our overuse and misuse. It can be your good deed for 2021. Instead, opt for a simpler word or phrase, like “use,” “learn from,” or “take advantage of.”
Buzzwords appear in all work sectors, but there’s something about tech PR and marketing that seems to make them more common. Let’s work together to come up with fresher, more powerful and more precise language that will actually be more meaningful when communicating about our clients.