PR pros can be a verbose bunch. There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, the communications field doesn’t exactly cater to wallflowers. Then again, there are some words and phrases that have been ground to dust, and PR pros should finally give them a rest.
> To be honest with you: What, does your normal way of communicating tend to be dishonest? By invoking this term you’re sending a few signals, none of them positive. First, it comes off as groveling to whomever you’re talking to, as if you’re being candid only to this particular person while the great unwashed get scripted responses from you. What’s more, the phrase comes off as if you have a torturous relationship with the truth and need to advertise that you are being straightforward, as opposed to speaking in a way that comes off naturally and doesn’t need a preamble.
> Moving forward: This makes every PR pro sound like a backslapping politician who wouldn’t know legislation if it fell on him. Is there any place else to go, but forward? Who has ever been in the business of moving backward?
> Frankly: This is the worst kind of verbal crutch and, in a similar vein of “To be honest with you,” smacks of insincerity. Again, it’s a verbal tic in which the person saying it comes off as rather high and mighty while the people being spoken are often made to feel like they may not understand what’s being said and need the assistance of hand puppets to follow what’s being communicated.
> Value proposition: And what else should PR pros pitch to their clients or the C-suite? A lack of value? This term, no doubt invented in the corridors of B-Schools, is popular in boardrooms, but so are flat soda and soggy sandwiches. The term doesn’t mean anything. It has all the warmth of Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve. Lose it.
> Synergy: Pardon us while we get our pagers out. This term was a catchall phrase in the late 1990s to describe all the wonderful melding of companies, products and services, starting with the AOL-Time Warner merger. (We all know how that worked out.) In the last several years, the term has been eclipsed by “integrated marketing,” but we don’t know if that’s any better. The larger point is not to get seduced by words that sound highfalutin but are, in fact, dated.
When it comes to the various facets of PR and communications, describe what you’re going to do in clear, simple and effective terms and leave the buzzwords at home.
Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1