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PR ‘Jargon’ to Avoid When Pitching Journalists (With Helpful Suggestions!)

The headline got us immediately: Arment Dietrich CEO and Spin Sucks blogger Gini Dietrich promised to reveal the “worst PR jargon” as reported by more than 500 journalists, editors and correspondents who participated in UK PR firm 1238‘s annual “buzzword report.”

We don’t know that journalists are the impatient jerks they’re made out to be, but we’ve been on both sides of this equation, so we get it.

Now we don’t want to go all negative on you guys and scare you into writing bland pitches, so we thought we’d re-work it a bit: Here’s a list of words and phrases you should try (for the most part) to avoid in your pitch messages, along with some alternative suggestions that we hope are helpful.

  1. Starting pitches with “So…”: We realize that we do this with posts, but we’re a blog so we can get away with it. Communications folks should stay relatively formal while conveying their excitement about their client/firm’s latest project. “Dear” is a little weird, but “Hi, Patrick” works just fine. (And we prefer “Hi” to “Hey” unless you actually know us, but that’s a personal thing.)
  2. “Dynamic”: We know you’re excited, but maybe back off a bit and call it “interesting” or “intriguing” or even “unique.”
  3. “Paradigm”: In most cases this means “the current state of things”, so that phrase will probably work. For example, “the current state of social media” or “today’s social media world” makes more sense than “the social media paradigm.”
  4. “Elite”: “Exclusive” is OK here. We know you can’t say “expensive” or “available only to certain wealthy/famous people”, but we get it.
  5. “Hotly Anticipated”: “Upcoming” or “soon to be announced” doesn’t sound quite as exciting, but it is usually just as accurate.
  6. “End User”: Just write “user” or, even better, “customer” or “consumer”. We’ll get it.
  7. “Influencer”: We understand that someone like, say, Richard Branson has a lot more LinkedIn followers than pretty much anyone else, but in most cases calling someone an “influencer” reads a little weird. “Popular LinkedIn personality” or “public speaker” makes the point.
  8. “Evangelists”: This is just another word for “enthusiast” or “promoter”. And we hope it goes away soon.
  9. “Deliverables”: Too vague. Be specific: do you mean “content”? You probably mean content.
  10. “Icon/Iconic”: If you’re talking about Michael Jackson or the Coca-Cola logo, sure. In most other cases, “popular” or “longstanding” will work.
  11. “Rocketed”: We guess a pop song could “rocket” to the top of the charts, but “grew quickly” or “made gains” or even “attracted attention” are usually better suited to businesses or campaigns.
  12. “Astonishing”: Better fit for Ripley’s Believe It or Not than a pitch note.
  13. “Marquee event/client”: Doesn’t tell us much. “big-name” or “well-known” or even “established” works if you mean “something you’ve probably heard of.”
  14. “Going forward”: We don’t really mind this one so much, but “from now on” or “in the future” will probably convey the same sentiment.
  15. “Ongoing”: Again a little vague. Do you mean “continuous” like a project with no end date? That’s what we assume when we see this word. If you just mean “it’s not quite ready yet but it will be,” then don’t be afraid to write that.
  16. “Optimized”: “Fully operational?” “Redesigned?” “New and improved?” Bueller?
  17. “Horizontal” and “vertical”: This is more like business jargon, isn’t it? “Vertical” means “designed with a specific audience in mind” while “horizontal” means “available to the general public”, so it would really be better to just write that out.
  18. “Phygital”: Kind of like “PRketing”, this means “a meeting of the physical and digital worlds”. Just avoid it. Please.
  19. “SoMoLo”: Very glad to say this is the first we’ve heard of this one. It means social-mobile-local, almost always referring to apps and other smartphone-based products. Only use this when addressing marketing departments.
  20. “Well-positioned”: Meaning “we think and hope that it will do well”. If it’s a startup, just tell us that it is an innovative product with a lot of capital behind it and that it’s therefore “prepared” to perform well in its given market.
  21. “Providing solutions”: Love this one. Usually means “addressing a particular need” or “helping someone run his/her business”, so it’s better to be more specific. Rather than writing “provides marketing solutions”, write “provides a convenient platform for marketing campaigns”. A little dull, but accurate!

We apologize if we’ve used some of these phrases ourselves. We never claimed to be perfect!

Any other suggestions or thoughts on this list?

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