6 common PR platitudes

What you don’t know—but should—about common platitudes including ‘Jargon is bad’ and ‘Join the conversation.’


Our industry is full of platitudes.

The problem is, behind the rhetoric, there’s more to the story.

Here are six common platitudes and what people tend not to tell you about them:

1. Platitude: “Spin sucks,” or “Spin is bad and ultimately hurtful.”

What “they” don’t tell you: Spin may suck, but when the truth seems odious, unpalatable or liable to kill the bottom line, spinning can seem pretty appealing. That’s why most companies/politicians/humans do it every damn day (at least a little).

2. Platitude: “Engage,” or “Join the conversation.”

What “they” don’t tell you: Engagement is great. So, too, is talking. But, absent a sound strategy, chatter and interaction never fed anyone or their families.

What “they” also don’t tell you: You have to talk for a long while for “engagement” to pay off. Even then there are plenty of other factors—such as when, where and how you talk—that can screw up your plans.

3. Platitude: “Jargon is bad,” or “Speak in jargon-free language.”

What “they” don’t tell you: When people know a lot about something, or care passionately about it, they tend to assume others do, too. The result is jargon-laced rhetoric. Getting it out of official communications is hard, and usually requires the presence of good PR counsel.

Also worth noting: PR people often say they hate jargon. That’s silly. Jargon, and its crusty mother-in-law, crappy writing, keep us fed. I love them both.

4. Platitude: “The media is not the enemy.”

What “they” don’t tell you: While the media is not the enemy, journalists can be an irksome lot. It’s understandable, since their profession places great value on behaviors that would otherwise be dubbed “anti-social.”

5. Platitude: “Print is dead.”

What “they” don’t tell you: While print media is experiencing serious change, it’s still a force; usually a bigger force than some “big” blogger or “specialty” website. Get a client in the local daily, let them see their beautiful mug on dead tree parchment and you won’t get kicked in the teeth (especially after they check Google Analytics). People love what they can frame and stick on a wall somewhere.

6. Platitude: “Mom bloggers are a critical target for most companies.”

What “they” don’t tell you: You can’t argue with this. No doubt the monetization of motherhood (and fatherhood) via blogs is now a fait accompli. However, two things about the “mommy segment” are worth noting:

1) The bloggers are increasingly in it to get free stuff, and

2) If you give them free stuff—even if it’s crap—they tend to say it’s great.

This post first appeared on Proper Propaganda. Wightman contributes to PRDaily.com.

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Topics: PR

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