Innovation Is Overrated

We asked a simple question on the PR News Facebook page this week: “What words are overused in press releases?”

“Innovative” popped up the most among the responses. Did your eyes glaze over when you read that? That’s the effect “innovative” has on the reader. It’s as meaningless as the phrase “new and improved.”

Like “cutting edge,” “state of the art,” “utilize” and “unique” (all which were also mentioned by the Facebook commenters), “innovative” is one of those words used by PR pros—and journalists—to describe something they probably haven’t quite grasped. To write with any authenticity, you have to understand, to some degree, what it is you’re writing about. You have to spend some real time with the product or service so that what you’re putting down in words has some meaning for someone who matters to you.

Perhaps Twitter and its 140-character limitation will drive home the beauty of the Strunk and White dictum “omit needless words.” But once you’ve omitted the needless words, have you got anything left of real value to say in a press release, Facebook post or, for that matter, tweet? You may find that you don’t—in which case you’ve got to steep yourself in the subject at hand. That’s not much of an innovative approach, but it’ll help you avoid having to resort to “groundbreaking” and “We’re thrilled.”

—Steve Goldstein (@SGoldsteinAI)