Top 20 buzzwords PR pros use

If you’ve ever said “hotly anticipated,” “end user,” or “deliverables,” a journalist somewhere is making fun of you.


We used to play this game in the office that didn’t really have a name. I suppose you could call it Corporate Bingo, except we didn’t fill out cards or have winners.

We had a six-foot whiteboard in the kitchen, and every time someone said what we considered dumb corporate language, we’d write it on the board.

Soon things such as “at the end of the day,” “with all due respect,” “frankly,” and “win-win” were listed. (We had a client who said “frankly” so much we never believed she was actually telling the truth).

We filled that thing up and then added big sheets of poster paper on either side to keep the game going.

A little story

I remembered the game right before the holidays while I stood in line at security in Atlanta. I overheard a man talking to one of his female colleagues, and the conversation went like this:

Him: “Hi, Allison. I’m hoping you can help me.”

Her: I assume she said something like, “Sure!”

Him: “I have an on-site client meeting tomorrow with 10 people and I need to order lunch.”

Her: “Umm, OK.”

Him: “I know it’s not your job, but I have no visibility into how to order lunch. Could I send you the menus and have you help?”

I don’t know what Allison said, but I was about to kick the man in the shins. I wanted to say to him, “Have you ever ordered pizza? Then you have visibility into how to order lunch.” As if, because she’s female, she does have “visibility” into ordering lunch. But alas, I kept my mouth shut.

“I have no visibility into how to order lunch.” He really said that.

The survey

It turns out MBAs and wannabe executives aren’t the only professionals who speak another language.

According to a report by Twelve Thirty Eight, PR professionals are the worst at using buzzwords that have no real meaning.

Each year Twelve Thirty Eight surveys 500 journalists to find out which buzzwords, jargon and terms PR pros use when working with them.

PR buzzwords

Some of the buzzwords are words like “awesome” and “super excited.” In fact, I have a journalist friend who is fed up with “amazing” (which, of course, encourages me to make it every other word when I email her).

Following is a list of the top 20 buzzwords compiled in the survey. The words or phrases in parentheses are an attempt to define the meaning.

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 (no one has heard of it)

6. End user (customer)

7. Influencer (he or she is probably not one)

8. Evangelist (he or she has a tendency to tweet with a lot of hashtags)

9. Deliverables (tasks)

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

11. Rocketed (made modest progress)

12. An astonishing x percent (it rarely is actually astonishing)

13. Marquee event/marquee client (probably a very local event or client)

14. Going forward (in the future)

15. Ongoing (a bit behind schedule)

16. Optimized (changed by consultants and 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)

And one of my favorites: “providing solutions.”

“I loathe it when a business describes itself as “providing solutions.” We see this time and again, and it tells us nothing,” said a journalist in the report.

You can download the survey and take a look for yourself. Some of the examples the journalists use are downright hysterical. And some, you’ll be sad to notice, you’ve used (but, I’m willing to bet, will never use again).

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

(Image via)

Topics: PR

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