12 Words and Phrases to Banish From Your Press Release

An attention-grabbing headline. A solid lede paragraph. A strong angle. Quotes. Contact information. Your company boilerplate.

Communications pros know exactly what goes into turning a press release from words on paper or an email to an invaluable piece of publicity via an unpaid media placement.

You know what to say.

But do you know what not to say?

Here are a dozen words or phrases to avoid, words and phrases that tend to turn off recipients of a press release—ultimately relegating your pitch to the unenviable circular file.

Outside The Box. You know what’s actually outside the box? PR professionals who realize that using ‘outside the box’ is just a tired, clichéd substitute for ‘different.’

Eagerly Anticipated. Really? By whom?

Leading. So many press releases tout a business as ‘the leading’ product/service/organization in the industry that you would think every company is the leader in its field. If anything, use of the word tends to cast doubt in the reader’s mind as to whether your company truly is its industry leader.

Unprecedented. This is a word PR people tend to use ad infinitum. In reality, it’s best to avoid unless you know your product or service is truly breaking new ground.

Adverbs (Part I). ‘Highly’ qualified. ‘Really’ strong leader. ‘Exceedingly’ responsive to customer needs. Next time you have the urge to throw in an adverb to prop up a verb, think of the scene in the film “A Few Good Men” when one of the defense attorneys “strenuously” objects after already being overruled. It’s superfluous.

Adverbs (Part II). More than just being superfluous, adverbs tend to push your word count. Press releases, like resumes, should be a single page. Studies by the journalism think tank the Poynter Institute showed that one small contributing factor to the decline of newspapers was that readers were tired of following the jump. The jump is where a story starts on a section front and then “jumps” to another page, forcing the user to find it to finish reading. People see a second page on a press release and immediately lose interest.

Holistic. Pass. It’s nothing more than a go-to word for those trying to add a few IQ points to a release. Maybe someday everybody will figure out what it exactly means anyway.

Authentic. So over-used that it’s ruined it for other PR folks whose business/product truly is authentic. See ‘Holistic’ above. Don’t try to sound more important than you are.

Fully Integrated. If you need to tell someone that all divisions of your business are working together, you have problems.

End User. How about just …. client, customer, audience.

Best In Class. This can be both a head-scratcher and seem disingenuous at the same time. Best in class? What class? And if you’re trying to hide that the ‘class’ is aqua-colored pick-up trucks less than eight feet in length with a bed capacity of 14 pounds, well, any first-year journalism student will see through the fancy phrasing.

Hot-Button. Topics, issues, products … what’s hot button the moment you send the release might not be by the time it’s read.