Secret handshakes have gone the way of AOL email addresses (sorry, “Top Gun” fans), but there is still a surefire way to gain acceptance with a group of insiders: Speak in jargon.
Every profession has its own lingo based on a common understanding of terms that are unfamiliar or confusing to those outside the loop. Talking to a Marine about a FOB (forward operating base) is far different from an FOB (free on board) for someone in the freight industry, an FOB (front of book) for a magazine publisher or the fob many of us need to open a locked door.
For PR pros, it’s essential to learn the jargon of new clients (and keep up with it as it evolves) so we can better understand what they do and how they communicate internally. We should also continually advise clients to scrub the jargon whenever they communicate with external audiences. When telling stories and building relationships, jargon is a stumbling block the size of Gibraltar.