These Should Be Words (PR Version)

Neologisms: 1: a new word, usage, or expression, 2: a meaningless word coined by a psychotic

Ok, going with definition one, this is an exercise many people engage in, including the Sunday NY Times Magazine, with its column, “That Should Be A Word.” There’s also my husband, who invented “clerty” – a mashup of “clean” and “dirty” for when one is undecided whether a dress shirt should be dry cleaned or could handle one more wearing.

In PR, where clever turns of phrase (or annoying coinages, take your pick) are the norm, here are some interesting terms that have recently popped up and some PR-usage examples.

HURRICATION: The unexpected day off work or school resulting from a nearby hurricane, producing enough rain and wind to shut everything down for a day or two, but not enough of a direct hit to cause damage or worry. “The hurrication left us unable to conduct any of our weekly client conference calls.”

INCOMMODEICADO: The state of being in the bathroom without a cell phone. “I excused myself from the marathon meetings to return a reporter’s call on deadline but found myself incommodeicado!”

FLIPOCRITE: One who openly justifies doing what one can’t abide in others. “We found it so flipocritical that the marketing director started Facebook advertising after they told us how stupid it was for their competitor!”

POVERTUNITY: A job that comes with no salary but has the promise of advancement. “Although it wasn’t the position she was hoping for, the offer presented a povertunity she couldn’t pass up.”

EMIND: To remind by email. “Don’t bother to call anyone on the team about tomorrow’s presentation; you have to emind them.”

CREDIBULL: Unbelievable claims made by one who is considered to be an authority. “The AE on the account had made the pitch successfully so many times, she even started to believe her own credibull.”

TEXTERITY: The ability to ably compose a text message. “Balancing a large Starbucks order for the client and his entourage didn’t affect her texterity one iota.”

GRAMMANDO: One who constantly corrects others’ linguistic mistakes. “I’ve never met a PR person who could resist going grammando on anyone’s typos.” See also: Dictaplinarian (enforces correct pronunciation); Spellot (takes a red pen to all documents).

FIDGITAL: Excessively checking one’s devices. “You could tell the meeting was over when no one was paying attention and everyone had gone fidgital.”

DAUNTLET: A small but overwhelming task. “Even though it was just a simple press release, the subject matter presented an overwhelming dauntlet.”

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!

Friends With Words?

PR pros tend to be wordy people, and we all have our favorites. Here are some of ours. You may not be able to drop them into your next client press release, but if they fill the bill without making you look like a sesquipedalian (given to or characterized by the use of long words), go for it!

Mondegreen – If you hear, “here we are now/ in containers” instead of “entertain us” when you listen to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” you have experienced the phenomenon of “mondegreen.” Mondegreen is mishearing or misinterpreting a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. It’s most commonly applied to a line in a poem or a song lyric. Writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her essay “The Death of Lady Mondegreen,” published in Harper’s Magazine in November 1954, and there are some very funny examples found here.

Disemvowel – A delicious take-off on “disembowel”! If this is how you text, you are disemvoweling: “pln 2 mt @ gt 12,” or removing vowels from text when writing it electronically, especially as a way of typing more quickly (or disguising offensive words).

Skeuomorph – A great word even without a definition. The etymology suggests some kind of strange change, and in fact, a skeuomorph is a physical ornament or design on an object made to resemble another material or technique. Examples include software calendar applications that resemble a paper desk calendar or “simulated woodgrain paneling” on a car.

Tartle – This is a terrifically onomatopoetic word for that panicky hesitation before you introduce someone whose name you can’t quite remember.

Mumpsimus – If you are George W. Bush and you’ve been told countless times how to pronounce “nuclear,” yet still mispronounce it, you suffer from mumpsimus, an adherence to or persistence in an erroneous use of language, memorization, practice, or belief, either out of habit or sheer obstinacy.
Got any impressive vocabulary you’d like to share? Do so in the comments!

The Hellfire And Damnation School Of Journalism

Confession: I am a word nerd. I read incessantly. I love Scrabble, the Times crossword and Words with Friends. When I’m bored, I anagram, just for fun.

Therefore, I’m always on the lookout and (listenout?) for great turns of phrase and colorful language, particularly when there’s evidence of a trend afoot. I noticed just such a microtrend in some interesting news coverage of late. I call it #helltrending. Read on for some proof.

Barely a week ago, Atlantic Monthly published a scathing account of the current state of US banks. In this terrifically well-reported piece, author Frank Partnoy variously refers to banking ills with the following fiery language, like “dry rot”; “toxic legacies”; “inferno”; and “Dante’s descent into Hell.”

Jon Stewart added to the “heated” conversation venting at AIG and HSBC and accusing AIG of bringing the world to the “brink of Armageddon.”

In the same vein, earlier this week CBS’ Scott Pelley interviewed U.S. Anti-Doping Agency head, Travis Tygart regarding reports that disgraced former cycling champ Lance Armstrong tried to make a donation to the agency when it appeared his carefully constructed anti-doping façade was beginning to crumble. In discussing blood test results now coming to light, Tygart labeled them “flaming positive” and said teammates feared that if they told the truth, Armstrong would “incinerate them.”

Ouch! What can we take from the use of all this passionate, burning language? Our recent close encounter with the Mayans? The fact that 2012 was the hottest year on record? You decide!