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The 10 most annoying PR jargon terms revealed

By Jon Brady | Photographer/Reporter

February 9, 2016 | 3 min read

The most annoying piece of PR jargon journalists deal with is 'reach out', according to a survey by Houston PR’s MD Hamish Thompson.

The survey is the result of more than three years of gathering jargon and buzzwords from peeved journalists and editors, having asked them to identify the terms that annoyed them most.

Having assembled a list of repeat offenders, Thompson contacted thousands of writers in the UK and US and asked them to choose their (least) favourites. He then compiled the results in a blog post published on Houston’s website.

The definitive top ten list of jargon guaranteed to rile up journalists, according to his research, is:

1. Reach out

2. Growthhacking

3. Onboarding

4. Curate

5. Circle back

6. Synergy

7. Empower

8. Solutions

9. De-layer

10. Ecosystem

Some of the dishonourable mentions included 'bandwidth', 'robust', 'evangelist' and several mentions of 'disruptive', 'leverage', 'downsize', 'monetise' and 'unicorn'.

Speaking to The Drum, Thompson noted that most jargon starts with a genuine impulse to find a new way of explaining things.

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He said: "Somebody stands up and says 'I’m going to curate a cheese sandwich' and the audience thinks 'nice use of curate'. Then, in the time it takes to make a cheese sandwich, everyone is using the word 'curate' and it becomes wallpaper.

"A few years ago, I remember seeing a business describe itself as 'a global leader in the adhesive labelling solutions sector' and I thought, what you mean is 'we sell stickers', which I think is better."

Using the data gathered from jargon-weary journalists, Houston set up, a jargon-stripping tool which rids press releases of unnecessarily fancy terminology.

By way of advice, Thompson said: “Rule of thumb – if something feels like jargon, don't use it. This is English. There are bound to be 579 other, fresher ways of saying it.

"PR does have a terrible jargon problem, and I think part of the problem is that too many people are scrapping over the same 250 words."

Is there a buzzword problem in PR? And if you’re guilty of using any (or several) of these, can you suggest any more? Reach out and let us know.


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