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PR Jargon and Why I Hate It

HATE is a strong word. To this day, my mom doesn’t allow me to say the word in front of her. But it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to say, “I really dislike PR jargon,” because I really do hate it.

It’s funny, because I have been a publicist for 20 years and you’d think that by now I’d be waving my PR jargon flag high and freely. But I cringe when PR pros say “ping,” that they’ll “circle back,” or when a business is described as “providing solutions.” This tells me nothing about the business they’re promoting. After all, don’t we all try to provide a solution?

A UK PR firm, twelvethirtyeight recently compiled this list of the top 20 most hated buzzwords in PR (phrases in parentheses are an attempt to define the meaning or put it in perspective):

1. Issues (problems)

2. Dynamic (likely not to be)

3. Paradigm (a “silk purse” word)

4. Elite (you wouldn’t normally get to attend)

5. Hotly anticipated (never heard of it)

6. End-user (customer)

7. Influencer (a person who probably doesn’t have influence)

8. Evangelist (a tendency to tweet with loads of hashtags)

9. Deliverables (tasks)

10. Icon/iconic (use before 01.01.01 or never)

11. Rocketed (made modest progress)

12. “An astonishing x per cent” (it rarely is astonishing)

13. Marquee event/marquee client (probably “very local”)

14. Going forward (in the future)

15. Ongoing (a bit behind schedule)

16. Optimized (changed by consultants then changed back)

17. Horizontal, vertical, etc. (two words in lieu of a strategy)

18. Phygital (easy to press or swipe, we guess)

19. SoLoMo (no idea)

20. Well-positioned (hopeful but a bit scared)

I was so relived to read that I wasn’t alone in my hatred. It’s bad enough to hear my 8-year-old daughters use the Valley Girl words and phrases so popular in today’s culture — you know the ones: “like,” “I’m all,” “you know,” and “totally.”  I remember when I was 16 and I used the word “basically” before every sentence — my parents would say it back to me sarcastically over and over until I finally stopped using it. It worked. The more they did this, the more I realized how ridiculous I sounded when I said it. I only wish we could do the same with PR professionals when they use jargon. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do to mock a colleague by mimicking them in snarky tones — after all, it’s not exactly good PR. But, maybe it’s time to use the very tools of our trade to get the anti-jargon revolution started. We can start our own #antijargon Twitter campaign, start a Facebook page that extols the use of simple and effective language, have parades with banners flying high with the words, “Truth In, Jargon Out!” Or maybe we can just agree to start saying what we mean, directly, and to the point. It would better serve our profession and our clients, and also save us from all of the extra wrinkle-lines produced by constant cringing.


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