Public Relations overusedprwords.jpg

Published on April 22nd, 2014 | by Connie Sung Moyle

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The 8 Most Overused Words in PR and Marketing

When you`re writing about your own product or service, it`s easy to fall into the habit of hype. It`s understandable. After all, ultimately you`re hoping your PR press release, pitch, brochure, email or website marketing copy will capture attention and get readers to do something. So, you have to impress with your words.

But these days, both press and consumers alike are more skeptical than ever when they know they`re being marketed to. Some adjectives are used so often that they no longer have any real meaning and do nothing but clutter up your copy.

Think twice before using these eight “fluff” words in your next PR pitch or marketing copy:

Groundbreaking (or its cousins, breakthrough and late-breaking): Very few products are groundbreaking in the sense that they figuratively broke new ground, or created a new market where none existed before. The Ford Model T, typewriter, iPod and sliced bread come to mind.

Revolutionary: Did your product or service start a revolution? Probably not.

Advanced: I see this word applied to almost everything. “Advanced ingredients.” “Advanced technology.” “Advanced processes.” It`s being used so much that it has lost its value.

Bleeding edge: This is a favorite in the technology industry. Apparently when “cutting edge” wasn`t enough, marketers started using “bleeding edge.”

Pioneering: Unless you’re leading the way in research or development of new ideas or products, it’s probably best to avoid this one. Also, see groundbreaking, above. 

Exclusive: Unless your product or service is only available to one person, it`s not exclusive.

Unique: We all think we`re special. But a better approach is to let your reader come to the conclusion that what you offer is unique, by describing its real features and benefits. Just saying that it`s unique, outright, does nothing to convince.

Best: Similar to the word unique, you`re better off letting your readers determine whether you`re truly the best. Instead of saying you have the best XYZ, get a quote from a customer (who has ostensibly compared you to your competitors) who says you`re the best.

I`ll be the first to admit that I`ve used these words plenty of times in my writing throughout the years, and sometimes they still sneak through. But as long as you`re aware, you can hopefully catch yourself before you publish a piece of content about your groundbreaking, revolutionary, bleeding edge, exclusive and totally unique product or service!

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About the Author

Connie Sung Moyle

Connie Sung Moyle is the Public Relations Manager at VerticalResponse.



36 Responses to The 8 Most Overused Words in PR and Marketing

  1. jack says:

    How about “iconic”

  2. Adrian says:

    Refreshing to see idiocies such as “reach out” and “share” fingered.

    Please add “world-class”, “stakeholders”, “touch points” and “customer journey” to list of nonsense.

    “Storytelling” deserves place in pantheon of unoriginality too.

  3. Clarence says:

    I am glad to have EXCLUSIVE access to this web service for this GROUNDBREAKING information.. This information is so REVOLUTIONARY, Its on the BLEEDING EDGE of what consumers are wanting..

    The ADVANCED info contained above is PIONEERING.. A platitude of UNIQUE info, and the BEST advice anyone could possibly offer…

    All great advice (From a mass consumer’s perspective)..
    Tell me what it does, not how good you are.. That’s all I ask to make MY life better and buy your stinking product..

    Hope I brought a smile to someones day..
    ~~Infopumper

  4. Dennis Magee says:

    How about “awesome”?

  5. Every digital marketing agency I talk to claims to be THE leading provider of digital marketing due to their advanced, pioneering, groundbreaking, innovative thought leadership.

    Of course, none articulate the criteria for having captured this lead position, other than self appointment.

  6. Brian says:

    I vote for these words and phrases: (1) single (2) available; (3) particular; (4) actually; (5) individual; (6) absolutely; (7) available; (8) necessarily; (9) area; (10) period. Honorable mention: situation, position, “as well” for “too” or “also”. They are almost always padding. None is found in the King James Bible, not because they didn’t exist, but because the learned translators understood the beauty of plain English, and had the confidence not to put on airs.

  7. Jane Guinn says:

    AWESOME. Geez.

  8. Val says:

    “Actually” when used to express an opinion rather than a fact.

  9. David Alexander says:

    A few of my personal favorites:

    24 / 7 / 365 I want to throw up whenever I hear that.

    Sourced. Sourced? Really? Get over yourself. What a nitwit expression.

    My personal grand prize goes to …… Drum roll please….. CERTIFIED ! Is there a product or service available anywhere in the world today that isn’t certified something or other. Like my new “certified”, ” pre-owned” car. Certified by whom? Oh right, the dealer selling it. Pardon me whilst I throw up once again.

  10. dave says:

    I seriously can’t believe no-one mentioned:

    -game-changer
    -no-brainer
    -paradigm shift
    -outside the box

    Whenever I hear people using these terms I think; “Another idiot with not a single original idea in his/her head.” It especially irks me when they use these terms more than once in a speech/presentation.

  11. Pete Hart says:

    I am amazed no one has commented on “ask” yet. Its a verb, not an object. “Big ask” is the most ridiculous Tory speak ever:

    - Ask is a verb, not an object.
    - Big ask sounds like and gives me the mental image of a big ass.

  12. Matthew C says:

    Innovative is another pet hate that seems to be everywhere. Seldom used for something which is actually innovative, in most cases it describes one or two minor new features in the seventh generation of an existing product line. Groundbreaking stuff.

    I’d really like to see a trend that gives birth to nonsensical and non-descript superlatives, just so our profession could truly BE innovativativative. For once.

    They could be purposefully vague and misleading portmanteaus, such as “Spackfab”, “Transmeh” and “Multivag”, just to keep people guessing.

    It’d be completely pointless of course, but no one word could be used for any two products or services; setting marketers everywhere down a path where they will either use up the entire alphabet or stop to take a serious look at their lives.

    Them’s the rules.

    • roscoe says:

      Using ‘innovative’ is so bleeding edge I can’t believe it did not make the list.

  13. John Geare says:

    “Reaching out” and “reach out.” Gag me with a door. People are “reaching out” to explain something to me, as if we had some dreadful previous exchange in which the writer was terribly misunderstood, and must reach out to explain what he or she really meant. Which makes no sense if this is our first encounter. The people selling mortgages are big reacher-outers. There’s that sense of desperation, the need of a rescue effort, a life saver thrown into a raging sea, a tree branch extended to extract someone from quick sand.

    Right in there with “give us sense of.” You hear that one on the news all the time, especially, most woefully, on NPR, where a mellifluous voice asks a respondent to “give us a sense” of what its like to be eaten by radioactive cockroaches. Just say, “tell me more,” for the luv a Pete.

    Here’s another, which has actually become kind of quaint: “fast-forward.” Let me tell you, that little nugget is no longer hip. It refers to the decade when VCR’s were such a big deal. But now the phrase serves as a gnarly and exhausted method of avoiding any logical development of a thought. “Time was, when buying a car meant shopping all over town. Fast forward – now just click your mouse.”

    I’m not finished, yet. “Share.” There’s another gagger, for you. Someone wants to “share” some great news, with me, as if they normally keep their news to themselves.

    Tell you what, Ace: I’m reaching out to share the news that if you ever address me with any of those terms, I will fast forward my response to give you a sense of what its like to have your face ripped off.

  14. Tony Komerska says:

    Do advertisements count? I think the word “Introducing” is probably so overused that no one even mentally acknowledges that it’s been used, and that’s why it’s not mentioned here.

  15. Kate Garrett says:

    How about the frequency of words like ‘gourmet’ and ‘organic’ , which usually add nothing to the quality of the produce.

  16. Richard Walder says:

    “Heavylifting” was said five times by the head of M&S on Radio 4 this week . He was referring to the changes he has made in the company during his tenure . Heavy lifting equates to the job of sacking I suppose.

  17. Leonie Cumiskey says:

    You missed out “bespoke” and “boutique”! Once I saw a festival described as “bespoke”. Not sure how that worked, considering that the capacity was 6,000 and, as far as I could tell, none of the ticket holders had a say in who was playing the festival.

  18. Nida Simons says:

    Connie Sung Moyle, you deserve praise keep up the good work, will look forward for your future work!

  19. Gedfan says:

    “World Class” and the ever present “In terms of”.

  20. Phil says:

    When you look at company websites and read their mission statements, if every company were to be believed, we are all working for ” Market or Global leaders ” and if the fact were true that they give customers’ a premium service which is second to none with a team of highly experienced experts in their field then surely nothing would ever go wrong ever …….. anywhere??

  21. Liz Thompson says:

    The phrase that drives me crazy is is “I give 110% to everything I do”. But 100% is the full whack – 110% effort doesn’t exist.

  22. Peter says:

    Or even more dramatic: paradigm shift. While I basically agree with the author’s main point, I believe that some consumers might interpret the absence of these power words as a lack of confidence in one’s product. Can you just stick to the facts and use sober language, and still be convincing and sexy?

    • Connie says:

      Thanks for your comment! The concern with these “power” words is that they’re used so often to describe almost everything under the sun; they’re no longer truly convincing. I’d recommend using descriptions that are specific and relevant to your product or service – describe its features and benefits. For example, instead of saying “bleeding edge technology,” what makes it so? Perhaps it’s because it’s “twice the speed, to save you time,” “has an intuitive interface, so it’s easy to use” or “is cloud-based, so you don’t have to worry about backing it up,” etcetera.

  23. Katie says:

    It’s true, cliches are for lazy writers. It is far harder – but more useful for your readers – to describe the features and benefits. Your list, plus the extras in the comments are useful so you can catch yourself when you do slip into clichedom, which is easily done. Far more effective to describe just one world-class, unique and award-winning features than allow yourself to dribble out the old cliches. Thank you!

  24. I’m with you Logan…it’s tough. We see these lists over and over…pretty soon we’ll have to toss out the dictionary. But I think Connie makes an important point in that we must all work harder to describe the real benefits of our offerings, not just throw down a plethora of descriptive words and hope the inference transfers to the buyer’s brain…adjectives are not searchable anyway!:)

  25. David says:

    “GAME CHANGER”…what a cliche that has become.

  26. Michael says:

    Not sure what’s the problem with “exclusive”. If a product is available to limited audience – for example only subscribers to a certain service, how is that not exclusive?

    • annoyed journalist says:

      Because EVERY SINGLE press release sent out to journalist contains the word exclusive somewhere. IT. IS. NOT. EXCLUSIVE.

  27. Great and useful article. What I got from this was to describe the product to your customers and let them (figuratively) add their own adjectives.

  28. mark savage says:

    I quite agree with you about the use of the word “best”. It is simply meaningless and therefore ‘best ‘avoided.
    My own personal ‘bete noire’ among the most meaningless and irritating phrases however is “world class”. Close behind it is “award winning” which now seems to be randomly applied to almost anything from loo paper upwards, or downwards.!
    Not a day passes without my seeing an example of both these two.

  29. Can you produce a list of words to use in place of these?
    Logan

    • Connie says:

      Thanks for your comment! The greater point I was trying to make is that we should focus on the real features and benefits of the product or service, instead of using these words or similar ones that are more hype than substance.

      • Cate says:

        To Good dodge, there, Connie! Reading the Comments of how many of these words/cliches people are fed up with, should you humour Logan with a complete list, you could be typing for a while. Informative article! Well done!

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