Posted by Tom Gable
David Meerman Scott analyzed 711,123 press releases distributed during 2008 by North American companies through Business Wire, Marketwire, GlobeNewswire, and PR Newswire. He filtered for 325 gobbledygook phrases and issued a report. The top 10: innovate, pleased to, unique, focused on, leading provider, commitment, partnership, new and improved, leverage, and 120 percent.
He did the same survey in 2006 and the top 10: next generation, flexible, robust, world class, scalable, easy to use, cutting edge, well positioned, mission critical, and market leading.
Amazingly, stamping out jargon and gobbledygook in news releases is kind of like going after hardier strains of cockroaches. In a post on April 14, we cited the bad buzz words identified by Inc. magazine and listed the words our research among major media had turned up as most offensive some five years ago. They were: solutions, leading, leading provider, leading edge, cutting edge, seamless, state-of-the-art, best-of-breed, robust, end-to-end, first mover, customer-centric, mission critical, turnkey.
I pulled out earlier research from 2001 when we had a web site called jargonfreeweb.com and a “Jargonator” program for analyzing the jargon content of news releases and ranking the news value on a 1 to 5 scale (from bottom of the bird cage to NYT and WSJ quality). At that time, the words most despised by the media were very close to the 2004 research but in a different order: solutions, first-mover, customer-centric, leading, leading provider, seamless, leading edge, cutting edge, end-to-end, mission critical, best-of-breed, robust, world class and scalable.
Scott’s list also included phrases that should be exorcised from news releases forever — “pleased to” and “proud to” – because they always introduce a self-serving quote written in corporate speak (labeled by some media as LAQs, or lame-ass quotes): To his list we would add “I’m excited to.”
Here is a sample LAQ from an actual news release:
“I am extremely excited to have XYZ join ABC’s technology team. His extensive experience in wireless communications and his deep passion for technology will enable ABC to reach new heights as the company continues to develop future generations of the world’s only complete end-to-end solution for wireless LAN monitoring and intrusion detection and prevention,” according to DEF, president and CEO. (Not only does no human being speak that way but you could have fun thinking about the between-the-line implications: “XYZ’s predecessor had terminal ennui and distaste for technology that kept us stuck at the same level for years.”). For more on LAQs, link here to “Looking Foolish With Lame Ass Quotes.”
The jargon train keeps rolling. New generations of PR people and companies enter the fray, all fresh-cheeked, eager and lacking in sophistication or imagination. They pick up where the previous generations left off and start touting leading edge, best-of-breed seamless solutions. Perhaps with more coverage by Inc. and additional national media, research by David Meerman Scott and involvement of other proselytes, the PR profession can derail the jargon train and soar into the future on the wings of well-crafted communications and authentic counsel.