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#PR: Use These Ten Words at Your Peril!
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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As with any other industry, PR has words and phrases that have become cliches. An article appeared last month in PR News for Smart Communicators authored by Sophie Maerowitz titled 10 Overused Words and Phrases for PR Pros to Avoid.

You might ask, “Well, what are these ten words we should avoid using?” I believe that knowing the overused words will vastly help us flacks improve both the quality and oomph of our pitches. I'm equally sure many of us are guilty as charged in using these ten words at one point or another.

According to Sophie's column, they are:

Circle back (especially after the first follow-up). The prospect already knows you're circling back from the fact that the email has been sent multiple times.

Unicorn. Overused in tech circles to describe a miracle-working employee or product.

Break the internet. Outdated in the media, and one of the worst offenders in terms of hyperbole. We're not talking DDoS attacks here. It's a kitschy phrase that usually refers to a celebrity scandal or a piece of content gone viral.

Starting a sentence with the word "so." So…what, exactly? Your argument speaks for itself if it presents specifics before making a claim.

Synergy. Throw this one into the outdated buzzword junk pile, please.

Engage. It’s hard to avoid overusing this word, since it can be used to describe a broad range of online activity. Still, it’s everywhere these days, and should be used sparingly.

Stakeholder. This word was once used to refer only to people with literal shares of a company. Everyone's a stakeholder these days, from social media trolls to potential consumers. It just doesn't mean much anymore.

Problematic. Its overuse is problematic, especially as an adjective. Better to state, "This has become a huge problem because..." Or, "This is a big issue and here's how we're going to address it.”

Thrilled. It gets less thrilling to read every time we see a press release for a new product launch make use of it (e.g. "We're thrilled to announce…").

Arguably. To quote [PR News'] managing editor, Ian Wright, "Anything is arguable if you can argue about it!"

Maerowitz noted: “Good PR professionals know how to draft well-worded material that lends an authoritative voice to their brand. When pressed for time, however, even the most talented communicators can be forced to sacrifice quality for quantity, using tired tropes where they might be better off expressing their brand's voice in a simpler and more meaningful way.”

Both she, and I, hope you all will avoid use of the items above. Oh, and while at it, here are two more she mentions that are also overused. They are Quite frankly and move the needle.

Comments, anyone?

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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