I read a really interesting report earlier today, The Buzzword Report 2013, from Twelve Thirty Eight, a terribly clever PR agency. By the way, thanks to Paul Fairburn for unearthing it and sharing it on Facebook. It details everything that journalists hate the most about how PR people work. Its full of bad practice and irritating habits, a lot of which that seem to be creeping in from the US.
The trouble is, after a quick glance through, you’ll realise that these problems aren’t limited to the world of journalism and PR. You’ll be amazed at how much of what is in this report YOU guilty of!
Take these top 20 ‘buzzwords’ that journalists hate to see in press releases. How many have you used in conversation today? The report has a stab at what the plain English campaign might consider a translation too.
1. Brits / Hard-working Brits / Hard-up Brits (an attempt to be ‘accessible’)
2. Dynamic (likely not to be)
3. Paradigm (a ‘silk purse’ word)
4. Elite (i.e. the best thing in Scunthorpe on a Thursday at 3pm)
5. Hotly anticipated (i.e. never heard of it)
6. End-user (‘customer’)
7. Influencer (probably not)
8. Evangelist (a tendency to tweet with loads of hashtags)
9. Deliverables (‘tasks’)
10. Icon/iconic (‘use before 01.01.01 or never’)
11. Rocketed (‘made modest progress’)
12. “An astonishing x per cent” (it rarely is astonishing)
13. Marquee event/marquee client (probably ‘very local’)
14. Going forward (‘in the future’)
15. Ongoing (‘a bit behind schedule’)
16. Optimised (‘changed by consultants 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’)
There’s a lot more in there that might make you feel a little uncomfortable. Well, that how it made me feel anyway. How about these little pearls of wisdom:
“Putting “does this work for you?” in the subject line, which makes me shout “no” and hit delete without reading it.”
“Starting an email with “FirstName” is definitely on the list.” (Note: I have to admit, I hate this too!)
“Happy Friday” and “Lock-in some coverage”.
“Iconic” – when applies to everything from Kate Middleton’s hair to Colleen Rooney’s platforms. Please can we allow this word the respect and privacy it deserves at this special time so that it can recover its true meaning?”
“What are you working on at the moment?” – about 500 stories and we don’t have time to elaborate or we won’t get them finished. If we need you, we’ll call.”
“Cold calls – cold emails will suffice.”
“Misspellings and atrocious grammar – a complete turn-off. How can we begin to take your analysis and pronouncements seriously if you don’t even have the diligence to check the difference between it’s and its?”
“”We’d like to place this on your pages” – what are we: classified ads?”
“Please don’t “reach out to us” – we’re perfectly happy with a conversation or the written word.”
All phrases that are heard regularly by these journalists, some of who are very senior by the way, and guaranteed to annoying the life out of them, and some of which might be a little too familiar to some of us!
The report itself makes for very entertaining reading. Even if some of it has to be read through slited eyes and gritted teeth as your sensibilities grate like your nerves do when you hear nails scratching down a chalk board.
But here’s the thing. As someone that prides himself on clear communication and directness, I was amazed at how much of this stuff, and stuff like it, I use myself.
Me, clear as a bell me. The person that hates Americanisms from British people (no problems with it from Amercians strangely) and all sorts of ‘jargon for jargon’s sake’.
Here I am playing bingo buzzwords with the best of them. Why do we do it?
Is there an element of social proof at play? Are we trying to establish in the listeners mind our expertise maybe? Or is it that some of these words and phrases really do slip into the lingo over time?
There was some good fun to be had the other day on Twitter as I and a few of the people I follow (some of whom have a rather limited grasp on reality sometimes) played #businessbard.
Simply, a number of tweets were exchanged with the aforementioned hashtag, the point being to recreate some famous Shakespearean quotation with a modern business context. Examples you say? How about:
@brandnatter with the classic ‘Hubble Bubble Toil and trouble, cut lunch breaks and profits bubble!’
@mrsmoti ‘Shall I compare thee to a spreadsheet?’
@HelReynolds ‘B2B or not B2B, that is the question’
@sarahfraser ‘Discharge my followers and let them hence away!’
And my personal favourite from me, ‘Whether its is nobler in the mind to suffer outrageous fortune and hostile takeovers’
All good fun, but it does make you think. Shakespeare was writing his poems, sonnets and plays 450 odd years ago, and the quotes above, at least some of them, are still recognisable to most people today. I wonder how many of the buzzwords and jargon in use today will last till next year much less be around in 500 years time?
Will school kids of the future be learning about this stuff in the same way we learned about Hamlet and Macbeth? Possibly not. But I’m sure some the words we invent now will transcend fashion and become a permanent part of the lexicon.
What are your favourite Buzzwords Which phrases do you hate the most? Which ones do you find yourself repeating, then kick yourself for doing it?
Let me know in the comments or email me directly at TonyDowling@CompletelyFreeMarketingAdvice.com