PR Jargon Buster - The 12 most hated PR phrases

Many believe that the most annoying abbreviation in PR is AVE (advertising value equivalent), but that is more about what AVE stands for, a poor way of measuring success, than the actual acronym itself. So we asked for the expressions that particularly annoy you in your pr jobs.

Before we start, Ian Whiteling, director of online agency Three-Sixty, points out that the term “public relations” is rather baffling itself. He adds: “It has to be the biggest jargon – what does it really mean?”. While you’re working that one out, here are a few other turns of phrase that you may have heard lately.

PRmoment’s glossary of favourite, and hated, PR terms:

1. Boiler plate: This is the term that some PROs use for the notes to editors short piece that gives a brief background to a company. Jill Hawkins, director at agency Aniseed PR gives her view: “I hate the term! Where on earth did it come from and does anyone still use it.”

2. Blue-sky thinking: What is wrong with the word “creative”? Other annoying terms in this ilk include “thinking out of the box” and coming up with “leftfield ideas“.

3. Cross pollination/cross fertilisation: These terms, along with “low-hanging fruit” (for easy pickings), certainly make Julie Thompson Dredge, senior consultant at agency Cherish PR, cross.

4. Digital native, digital immigrant: Claire Bridges, founder of PR agency Agency4Agencies describes these terms, which were first coined by Mark Prensky a writer and futurist in 2001. She says: “Think four year olds using iphones to watch Dora the Explorer versus your gran and the internet. Prensky said that a digital native is a person born during or after the introduction of digital technology and is comfortable using it (like a native speaker of a language) whereas an immigrant is someone born before the advent of digital and finds it harder to adapt to it. It's become shorthand for talking about people and their attitude to digital technology and campaigns.”

5. Grey beard: This is used to describe the wise corporate head in the room. Can be worrying if that wise person happens to be a woman.

6. Heads up: Journalists often ask for this. It is rather overused in some PROs’ opinions. So if you want to have advance notice (not that this is ever likely), perhaps find another way to ask for it.

7. Holding the ring: This means taking responsibility for, as in “I will hold the ring on that project”. The first time that Alex Hunter, managing director of PR agency Pavilion, heard it, he says: “I felt a little queezy”.

8. Moving forward: If you do have to carry on, why go on about it? Natasha Stone, account executive at Golley Slater says “these are by far the most annoying two words used by PROs”.

9. Quick and dirty: This usually means that the activity is going to be cheap too, and is used in relation to just about anything, often surveys.

10. Reach out: This is the personal bugbear of Beth Carroll, head of social media at PR agency Threepipe: She wonders why it is so popular, when there are much better alternatives, she offers three: “Approach, talk to, or contact worked just as well for many years.”

11. Seed, share and amplify: It might be relevant to have a term that means spreading the word effectively now that social media is doing just that, but this phrase is getting tired now.

12. Touch base: If someone asks you to contact them this way, try not to scream.

This is an introduction to a few of the phrases that may drop from the lips of PROs. If you want to find terminology that is even more baffling, then freelance PR consultant Katharina Winkler offers this advice: “Just look at most agencies' websites. I guarantee you that many prospective clients wouldn't understand the PR waffle and self-important terminology. “ 

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