We all know buzzwords are annoying, but they can cause real problems if used without direction. Buzzwords can mean different things to different people, and they also shield the user from having to be thoughtful and specific.
Describing a goal with a buzzword is like asking someone to look at something through a cloud. It’s time for us to stop accepting ambiguous jargon in place of substance, and start expecting more from our meetings and conversations.
Though familiar, the words and phrases below can result in confusion and a lot of wasted time. If you’re on the receiving end of these buzzwords, it’s okay to ask for clarification from your leaders – even from your clients. Here’s how to make sure you’re giving and getting enough explanation:
Every organization wants to be on-trend with content marketing, but there are different definitions of what content actually is. Making vague references to your content isn’t helping anyone unless you can be specific about what’s ready to go and what still needs work.
Some think of content as finished products – the items that will actually be marketed. Other times, ‘content’ is used to describe raw material. The assets exist, but some legwork is required before using them in marketing. One definition is not better than the other, but it helps to be clear about the nature of your content.
[Tweet “6 Business #Buzzwords That Leave People Guessing”]
For example, “We have a lot of content: seven blog posts, three video vignettes and one case study,” is a lot more marketing-ready than “We have a lot of content: three hours of raw footage, some technical documents and notes from an interview.”
When talking about content for your marketing initiatives, be clear about what you actually have on hand. If you’re listening to someone talk about content, don’t leave the conversation until you know exactly what assets he or she is talking about.
There are no scenarios I can think of where synergy is a necessary word. It doesn’t have a lot of depth on its own, but people feel very important if they think they’re creating synergy. Even though it sounds nice, simply setting ‘synergy’ as an objective isn’t helpful to a team.
If you want a team to work together, explain how efficient collaboration will help reach the goal. If you want a cohesive plan, then explain which parts of the plan are intended to support each other rather than simply saying you want it to be synergistic. The most important thing – whether you use ‘synergy’ or an alternative – is that you give direction.
If someone tells you they want synergy, make sure you hold them accountable by asking exactly what needs to be synergistic and how.
This is an outlier on the list because it doesn’t require explanation, but while we’re on the topic of buzzwords, let me pose a question: When does it make sense to say ‘utilize’ instead of ‘use?’ Unless the goal is to waste syllables, the answer is never.
“To meet our deadline, we’ll utilize the following methods…”
“To meet our deadline, we’ll use the following methods…”
“I’ll utilize PowerPoint instead of Keynote.”
“I’ll use PowerPoint instead of Keynote.”
“Why are you utilizing a fork to eat pizza?
“Why are you using a fork to eat pizza?”
As you can see, it doesn’t make a bit of difference. PR is not the place to use big words for the sake of using big words. Unless the message quality will suffer, brevity is always a better bet.
Sometimes when teams feel out of sync or disorganized, they decide that the best thing to do is ‘streamline.’
What does that mean, exactly? Are we streamlining a process for a project? Are we streamlining a series of processes for an ongoing task? How are we planning to streamline – what are the steps?
Using ‘streamline’ without direction doesn’t solve any problems; it just creates an illusion that things are under control. If someone tells you that they want things to be streamlined, make sure you’re clear on what is being streamlined, and how you can help get a process in place.
The concept of innovation is great when innovation is actually happening. It’s right up there with ‘disruption;’ it loses a lot of its meaning if used too frequently or without evidence to back it up.
Everyone wants to feel like they’re innovating, but let’s explore what that actually means. To innovate is to introduce something new – something that’s never been seen before.
If your team is doing a fantastic job at something that’s already established, that’s great! It’s not innovation, though. We need to respect the distinction between doing great work and actually doing something brand new. They are both great things, just different.
When you, your leaders or your clients start using the word ‘innovation,’ think carefully about whether or not innovation is truly occurring. From a PR perspective, it’s dangerous to promise innovation unless the end result is truly new and different.
6) Start a Conversation
Minimizing a company’s carbon footprint? Let’s start a conversation. Mandatory vaccinations? Let’s start a conversation. Saving the rainforest? Let’s start a conversation.
‘Starting a conversation’ is just another way of saying that you want to generate awareness, but in a lot of cases awareness already exists. For example, the above topics probably sound familiar to you because conversations about these things are already happening.
I recommend eliminating this phrase entirely and opting for something more specific and, frankly, unique. A simple Google search will show you that everyone wants to start a conversation. What can you do to set yourself apart?
If a client or team leader wants to ‘start a conversation,’ think first about whether or not a conversation already exists. If so, make sure you get to the bottom of how the conversation is supposed to change and identify tactics.
BONUS! Weird Al Yankovic – Mission Statement
Here are a bunch more annoying buzzwords, courtesy of Weird Al:
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