How do PR professionals avoid buzzwords?

February 16, 2022

An Increase in Buzzwords

Have you ever heard the term “operationalization of AI at scale” and wondered what it really means? At Bospar, we have, as well as many other clunkily verbose and seemingly obscure terms. The topic of “buzzwords” used when pitching tech clients is not a new one to us, but one we’ve addressed in the past and are now forced to reexamine as the list grows, largely due to current events and shifting global trends. Many terms are turn-offs to journalists who see murky descriptors time and time again and are not impressed.

Pithy Pitching

Every year, Lake Superior State University publishes a list of “banished buzzwords” advising companies and publicists to avoid certain terms. It includes “circle back,” “new normal” and “supply chain.” Some of these seem impossible to avoid altogether, but what is the bottom line? Journalists want publicists to succinctly get to the point, making article ideas easily readable, digestible and distinct from other inbox suggestions.

Ensure Your Claims Are Verifiable

With the deluge of emails reporters scan daily, eyes glaze over at the mere mention of technology that is “one of a kind,” “state of the art” or “unique.” And before you position a company as having “no competitors,” cautions Bospar’s SVP of Broadcast Eric Chemi, who advocates for avoiding the cliche altogether, do your research! Chemi, who worked as a TV reporter at CNBC, explains, “Typically if a customer doesn’t go with you, they go with some other solution, or they do nothing at all. That’s your competition.”

Don’t Inspire Newsroom Roasts

The key issue regarding some of the most overused terms is that we often do not have replacements in areas of technology gaining momentum and where certain adjectives and nouns have been established as standard. Of buzzwords he often heard in the newsroom, Chemi says, “‘Revolutionary’ is a key one, as are ‘changing the game,’ ‘machine learning,’ and anything like ‘aaS’ or ‘SaaS.’” As PR professionals, we need to think of clear-cut and precise descriptions so our messages are compelling and result in coverage.

We’ve seen phrases used in the news that we want to better explain, ones like “big data” and “digital transformation,” as Bospar’s Chief Content Officer Tricia Heinrich previously pointed out. Both Chemi and Bospar SVP Brett Larson, who worked as an anchor at Fox News Headlines 24/7 on SiriusXM, say these buzzwords inspire newsroom banter and roasts of PR professionals. 

However, Some Buzzwords Are Here to Stay, So Familiarize Yourself With Them!

We do have to accept that certain words are unavoidable. Some phrases that are here to stay include: Distributed Cloud, Hyper Automation, Extended Reality, Cybersecurity Mesh, NFT, DAO, Metaverse, and Multi-Experience.

Bernadita Calzon Pena of data analytics company Datapine writes: “The solution? Get to grips with the latest technology buzzwords and understand what they mean in a living, breathing business context.” So, while we cannot abolish all buzzwords, we can improve our use of those that aren’t budging.

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