Know Your PR Jargon

It doesn’t take long in a PR agency to figure out that practitioners can speak in a language all their own. Learning “PR-speak” is necessary to facilitate communication within a team. Industry jargon can be off-putting, but it does add a sense of camaraderie for those “in the know.” Additionally, as any industry evolves, so does the vocabulary. Check out some of these commonly used PR terms and acronyms to keep from getting lost in translation.

The Acronyms. PR people are definitely fond of acronyms, so much so that a conversation between two people in the biz can sound more like a secret code than a business plan.

B2B and B2C, as most people already know, refer to campaigns that target other businesses, or those that reach consumers, respectively.

OTR stands for Off the Record — integral to media relations by (ostensibly) allowing you to control the message when speaking to media.

ROO stands for Return on Objective and represents how your end result compares to your program’s original goals, where ROI, Return on Investment, refers to the value of a program.

SOV stands for Share of Voice, a barometer of visibility often used by brands or companies in competitive industries. SOV can be part of an agency’s KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, as the industry has moved beyond such traditional (but outdated) metrics as CPM (Cost Per Thousand) or AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent.) Phew.

Pitching. Pitching is essential to successful public relations, and, although it’s derived from baseball, it can mean a few things. A new business pitch is where an agency sells ideas to a potential new client, while a media pitch, of course, is persuading a journalist or blogger that they should feature your client’s news. You should also be learning how to pitch yourself to potential employers, i.e. your elevator pitch.

Blast. The act of sending an e-mail to numerous people at one time (and, unfortunately, often misused.)

Crossing the wire. This sounds dangerous, but it means a press release distributed over a newswire service, which helps run news in searchable digital form. It can be a real asset in spreading a story quickly. The term “crossing the wire” comes from a time when news services communicated via electrical telegraphy.

Readers. A “reader” is a 30-to-60-second piece distributed to broadcast contacts that contains the most essential information for their listeners and viewers.

Boilerplate. “Boilerplate” is actually a printing term that also refers to standard language in legal contracts, but in PR it means a brief summary of a company’s business or history found at the end of a press release. It was also named as one of the most annoying PR terms by InsidePR, but we find it pretty harmless.

Got any other examples of jargon you’ve heard recently? Do you remember the first term that made you scratch your head? Tell us in the comments!

Words To Avoid For PR Pros And Princess Bride Fans

Although I’m a grammar and word usage nerd, I rarely blog about it, mainly because others do it so well, and for PR pros, the frequency of reminders can be tedious. Yes, certain incorrect, trite, or pompous words are irresistible complaint fodder: my personal dreads are “hone in” for “home in” or anything with “utilize” for the much better “use.” Also PR jargon like “buzz” and “optics.”

But in honor of the 25th anniversary of The Princess Bride, here’s a list of words more commonly misused in professional circles or in the office. Some are merely old, some incorrect, while others simply should never have seen the light of day.

Any nouns used as verbs. And vice versa. “Onboarding, “concretize,” and “webify” are three offenders. I swore I’d never say “productize,” but after 20 years in tech PR, it rolls off my tongue. Then there’s “showroom,” as in, “I showroomed the new tablet then ordered it from Amazon.” Most nouns should never be “verbed.”

Flexitarian. The word refers to dietary habits, but it’s also a badge of identity, like “metrosexual.” According to Merriam-Webster’s Kory Stamper, it’s from the “you are what you eat” school. In my book, it’s confusing and pretentious.

Funemployed. No, it’s not really. Maybe pre-recession, but since 2008 this hasn’t been a good word.

Spinnish. I’ve heard this used to describe the language used by PR pros and politicians. Funny, maybe, but too backhanded.

Refudiate. This word was famously invented by Sarah Palin and it should have ended with her retirement from politics.

Democratize. Another “verbification” that actually makes sense to me, though it may be through sheer overuse. And that’s the problem; this word is just so tired, having been used to describe everything from financial investments to art. Let’s vote it out for a while.

Agreeance. Are we all in “agreement” that this is an invented word, and not a good one?

Smirting. This is meant to refer to flirting while smoking, since anti-smoking regs have driven so many office workers outdoors. NPR’s “A Way With Words” confirms my suspicion that it’s something a PR person invented and tried to popularize, but it never really caught fire.

Ridonkulous. I’m secretly fond of this one, but it’s seen better days. When a word is attached to discount sales, it means it’s not as cool as you think.

Sexting. Last year “sexting” was named the Most Annoying New Tech Word by Computeractive Magazine (which I think should consider a name change itself.) But, alas, it’s here to stay. And to be honest, “intexticated” – from the same list – is actually worse.

Digerati. Does anyone really say this? Certainly not them.