PR Buzzwords That Should Be Banned

As a PR professional (and Zillow enthusiast), I can appreciate real estate euphemisms. We’ve all seen flowery descriptions describing homes for sale as “cozy” (read: tiny); with a “low-maintenance yard” (probably concrete); or “partial water view” (maybe a dried stream bed). A recent tweet about a “Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired cabin” made me think about the jargon that clutters press releases and business memos in our own business.

There are far too many tired, empty words used in news announcements and other content prepared by PR agencies or their clients. In some cases it’s understandable, or even necessary. When it comes to business software, customers may expect to hear about “end-to-end solutions” or a “suite of scaleable offerings.”

Advertising Week just wrapped up here in New York, and with it, a festival of jargon. In the adtech sector, buzzwords like “monetization” and “engagement” are unavoidable, and terms like “transparency” and “visibility” have a special meaning. (Even worse are the acronyms. If you don’t know what GDPR is and why it’s important to a DMP, DSP, or SSP, then you’re lost.)

But even allowing for vocabulary specific to certain sectors – and technology is the worst — PR-speak can be lazy, uninspired, and clogged with meaningless descriptors. Here are some of the terms that, when used in press materials, can undermine the typical PR team’s message. There are three main categories of bad PR-speak: hyperbole, buzzwords, and hopeless clichés.

Building buzz without the buzzwords: ban these terms

“leading” – This one’s everywhere, usually in the first line of a press release or company boilerplate. That’s because it’s an easy way to imply leadership status without making a claim that might be disputable. The same goes for weasel-words “market-leading” and “leading-edge.” Without information that supports the claim, they have no power. But those aren’t as bad as “bleeding edge,” which I first heard in 1996 and never want to hear again.

“excited” – Okay, it’s not a buzzword, but my pet peeve is the news release about a partnership or deal where the company spokesperson is quoted as being “thrilled,” “delighted,” or “excited.” While these descriptors may be accurate, they add nothing to the story. No journalist will use them. Why not say something about how the partnership will advance business goals? Or, skip the quote and post a real executive comment on social media.

“groundbreaking” – Another overused PR buzzword that has lost all meaning

“curated” – This is one of many words that are unnecessarily pretentious versions of simpler ones. Why call something “curated” if it’s clearer to say it’s “carefully chosen” or “hand-picked”? The same goes for “bespoke” and many nouns used as verbs, like “mainstreaming” and (the worst) “architecting,” as in “architecting a new plan.” Ugh.

“lean in” – With due respect to Sheryl Sandberg, this term has been appropriated by so many different entities and in too many situations that the original meaning has evaporated, and it’s now a cliché.

“incredibly” – Hyperbolic and meaningless

“leverage” as a verb – I’m reconciled to seeing this word throughout PR proposals, but it should never appear in a press release.

“game-changing” – If a product has truly changed the game, then explain how. Otherwise, this is another empty hyperbole.

For more PR buzzwords that deserve to be busted, check out PRbuzzsaw. You can try its “automated jargon removal tool” to assess your press release, or just have a laugh. And if you’re still in need of inspiration, I have a charming, bespoke cottage with lots of character that you might want to check out.

5 "Magic" Words To Boost A Consumer PR Pitch

The summer months are in full swing, and as PR professionals know, seasonal pitches are a tried and true tactic. How do you use the season to help your pitch resonate with media when it comes to calendar opportunities? As Sigmund Freud once said, “Words and magic were in the beginning one and the same thing, and even today words retain much of their magical power.” Here are a few fun, summer-esque buzzwords to consider in your communication.
PR energize
Energize. Warm weather calls for more activity. This is the perfect time to promote products that revitalize or stimulate with a boost of energy. Heat can be draining, so it’s helpful to use words that flag how products or services can fuel and energize users.
PR light
Light. This can apply to a wide range of products and scenarios – light clothing, light flavor, lightweight, etc. It’s the time of year when we latch onto the less-is-more mindset. Show media how your product allows users to be playful and carefree, whether they’re doing sports or relaxing at the beach. Play up portable goods as well, since everyone has a vacation in sight.
PR sweeten
Sweeten. The heat tends to bring out the sweet tooth in us. Whether used literally (“sweeten your smoothies”) or figuratively (“sweeten the deal”), this buzzword will add color to your language to help grab attention.
PR freshen
Freshen. Summer calls for more time outdoors, which means more dirt, sweat and an overall need for refreshment. This is a versatile word that can be used to describe products we use personally or in settings like homes, offices or airports. It can imply efficacy, newness, or even rejuvenation.
PR colorize
Colorize. Winter black is long gone. Exciting hues, patterns and lights are in demand, so make your story angles pop by explaining how your product can colorize consumers’ everyday lives for a summer vibe. “Bold” and “glow” are also good alternative buzzwords.