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Decoding Tech PR Jargon

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Sketch by Bill Rice

Tech PR professionals, like all PR people, love their jargon. With its highly technical applications, products, and services, the world of technology startups, ad tech providers, and enterprise “solutions” is ripe with opportunity for creation of buzzwords that can leave non-techies baffled.

Planning a tech PR program means not only mastering what these terms actually mean, but knowing when to use them and when to translate into more plainspoken language. Here are some of the most commonly used tech terms, and our tips on when (or whether) to use.

SoLoMo. An inclusive term for three trends — social media, local commerce, and mobile apps — this term has relevance within the niche world of digital marketing, and continues to be a favored strategy for many adtech companies and startups. The term is believed to have been coined by venture capitalist John Doerr. Use it sparingly, and only when addressing digital marketing and adtech insiders.

KPI. A term that’s been around for a while, “Key Performance Indicator” has become shorthand for a measurable value that helps gauge how a business or program is performing, and is still widely used. Its use extends well beyond technology PR into the business world at large, and most business professionals should be familiar with it.

IoT. Most who toil in tech PR are familiar with the “Internet of things” and its acronym, IoT. It annoys some due to heavy usage in tech circles, but given the boom in businesses built around sensor and software-driven connectivity; the ever-growing interest in the data patterns associated with IoT; and the social impact, we think it’s one that’s here to stay. 

Growth Hacking. There are several ways to define this term. We prefer the one from Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail):  Growth hacking is the “lean startup” term coined by Sean Ellis for using conversion marketing tactics like content marketing, A/B testing, and analytics to grow a company quickly and efficiently. A favored term by techies and entrepreneurs, it’s often used loosely and has the potential to lose its edge, just like the overused terms “innovative” and “disruptive.” Since there is a lot of cross-over between growth hacking techniques and common marketing activities, use it only when truly accurate.

Disruptive Innovation. Invented by Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen 18 years ago, the term has been resurrected by the current tech startup boom and overused to the point where it’s nearly meaningless. One acclaimed artist recently created an entire body of work around the term in his latest exhibition, The Innovator’s Dilemma (the name of Christensen’s book describing the concept). Steer clear except in the rare cases where it is actually true.

Gamification. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users and increase user contribution, according to Wikipedia. Applicable in many disciplines, the term has become popular in education circles and even lands in a U.S. News and World Report headline (the publication deems it one of three top emerging trends in online education). As mainstream media adopt the term, we’d say that’s license to use it when appropriate.

Tradigital. The meaning here is pretty clear, given that it’s a blend of the words “traditional” and “digital,” and in PR it typically refers to media or media-driven program components. But given that most clients have made the transition to digital and the lines between on and offline has blurred, we find ourselves using this term rarely.

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