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PR jargon: 20 of the most hated phrases

PR people understand the power of words, so there is no excuse for using phrases that wind people up. Below we list some of the most hated phrases, plus single words that can be annoying depending on how they are used.

From Rosanna Head, associate director at PR agency Definition:

1. Tissue meeting – “Our director and co-founder Susanna Simpson says this is ‘just awful’. Enough said.”

2.  Vertical dining solution – “Our senior account manager Lesley Foottit really did hear this. Whilst working as a journalist, Lesley will never forget the PR pitch which used this phrase to describe a handheld snack.“

3. Drilling down Our account manager David Gatehouse has struck gold with this one. Whilst not the most irritating phrase in the world, it’s definitely mined far more than necessary.”  

From Richard Thiardt, account director at PR agency Stir:

4. One pager – “It’s never one page, it’s rarely two pages and usually results in a multi-slide Powerpoint deck.”  

5. Opportunities to see – “Every agency does it differently, the number is usually larger than the human population of Earth. Let’s just keep to actual print circulation and unique user figures and avoid those awkward moments in evaluations and project reviews. For all of our sakes.”  

6. Low-hanging fruit – “Everyone is currently visualising testicles. Thanks a bunch.”

From Katheryn Watson, head of digital PR at content marketing agency Kaizen:

7. Bringing this to the top of your inbox again For me, this shows a case of impatience. Also,how many times is 'again'? By acknowledging that you've once, or twice, before been bumped down someone's busy inbox – and haven't yet received a response – you're being more annoying than helpful.”

From Mark McMeekin, digital PR consultant at marketing agency AGY47:

8.  Bubble this to the top of your inbox – “My least favourite piece of PR jargon comes in the form of an email, and one I’m sure is mostly cringe inducing for journalists. ‘I just wanted to bubble this to the top of your inbox’ – a common enough template for a follow up to a press release, but what does is it even mean!? Much like a lot of workplace jargon, it means nothing, it’s cringeworthy and it has no place in anybody’s email inbox.”

From Rachel Donati, creative director, copywriter, poet and co-founder at The Queenly Studio:

9.  Bottom line "How’s your bottom line?  Mine’s fine but could do with new smalls."

From Nikki Alvey, owner of Media Hound PR:

10. Hive mind – “I see it all the time in freelance PR groups as a greeting. Drives me nuts!”  

From Alex Garvey, associate director at PR firm Edelman:

11. Circle back – What’s wrong with “Laters!”?  

12. Reach out – Please don’t stretch yourself.  

From Adam Harwood, media relations manager at accountancy membership body AAT:

13. Reinventing the wheel – this phrase need reinventing.

From Sophie Fox, senior account executive at agency Samphire Communications:

14. Putting this on your radar – another oldie but baddy.  

From Matt Steele, brands comms director at health and beauty company Manuka Doctor:

15. Inbox me – no, just kill me now!

From Jodie Harris, head of digital PR and content at agency Media Vision:

16. Stepping on each other's toes – please stop pussy-footing around.  

17. Touching base – No, don’t bother, think we have had enough of you already.

Three of my own pet peeves:

18. Heads up – Journalists usually love to use this, so there must be something wrong with me.

19. Think out of the box – no, just keep those boring old thoughts safely in the box please.

20. Singing from the same hymn sheet – luckily, this seems to be going out of fashion, but not quickly enough.

One-word horrors  

Enhanced, Innovative, Robust, Strong – Joe Fernandez, communications manager at recruitment specialist Oleeo, says:The terms I detest the most in PR efforts are superfluous adjectives that come in through branding exercises like ‘better enhanced’, ‘innovative state-of-the-art’ and ‘robust and strong’ – it often feels like word clouds are stitched together to form the basis of a sales presentation and the PR team are left to clean up the aftermath in order for any promotion to sound relatable and non-repetitive!”

Drive, Deliver – Xanthe Vaughan Williams, director at agency Fourth Day PR, says: ‘‘In tech PR, a certain amount of technical jargon is fair enough if you’re targeting a particular audience. If you’re writing for retailers, it’s reasonable to assume the reader knows what a distribution centre is, or that someone reading an IT magazine will understand what you mean by open source. What’s less forgivable is language that doesn’t have any industry-specific meaning at all. For me it’s the verbs which are the most annoying. Two in particular – drive and deliver – are used to convey determination and effectiveness, but the sentences they appear in are frequently meaningless.”

Authentic, Passionate, Dial-up, Measurables – Rachel Donati says: "If I hear the word authentic again, or read (yet another) company that’s passionate about its iconic bespoke offering with its chief jam storyteller dial-up measurables… "  

Delighted – Rosanna Head from Definition says: “Our head of Leeds Ellie St. George-Yorke knows this is not strictly jargon, but she really hates the overuse of this word in press releases. Surely there must be an alternative? We’re just delighted pleased she could contribute.”  

Revert – a hated word for Edelman’s Alex Garvey.

Digital, purpose, sustainable – Luc Edwards, executive producer at creative content agency TVC Group, explains why the word ‘digital’ is losing its meaning: “It’s clear that the ever increasing mountain of digital data is reshaping every aspect of our lives. However, now that pretty much everything we interact with is touched by tech, has the term ‘digital’ started to lose all meaning? I would argue that is has and that we need new and better terminology. ‘Digital’ is certainly in pretty much every conversation we have as an agency with clients and with ourselves ‘Digital’ has joined the likes of ‘purpose’ and ‘sustainable, words that in 2019 mean so much but also so little. It’s time for new and better vocabulary that is more accurate and more imaginative.”

So that leaves you with very little left to say in your next press release, once you leave out all those horrible nouns, adjectives, verbs and nasty little phrases, it should be short, concise and relevant. And will bubble straight up to the top of journalists’ inboxes. Sorry! I couldn’t end this without using my favourite piece of jargon, so please don’t revert.

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