If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know I often talk about making every word work for its place on the page.
That means no fluff or meaningless jargon. If it doesn’t add anything to the story, it shouldn’t be there.
When you’re writing about your own organisation, product or service, it’s tempting to slip into hype. Most press releases I read are full of words and phrases that add no value at all. But using exaggerated sales language isn’t going make a journalist more likely to run your story. In fact, it can be off-putting.
Here’s my list of the worst offenders (crowd-sourced with the help of various journalist colleagues).
How many have you used this week?
Everyone claims their organisation, product or service is unique. It usually isn’t
Many people are passionate about what they do. And so they should be. But does your passion add anything to the story (unless it’s about an X-rated product or service)? Probably not.
3. Showcase (i.e. 'to showcase')
'Show' does the job just fine, doesn't it?
4. First ever
There is no such thing as a new idea. Well, very rarely. But it’s a phrase that pops up in every other press release I read. Unless you’re absolute sure you have a ‘first ever’ - and have the evidence to prove it - give this one a miss.
Everyone says their organisation, product or service is the leading one. In their opinion.
6. Provide support
What’s wrong with the word ‘help’?
7. Future thinking
I’ve not come across an openly backward-thinking organisation (or at least one that will admit to it). So what will this add to your story?
8. One-stop shop
Reminds me that I need a pint of milk...when I really should be reading your press release.
9. Cutting edge
In whose opinion? See number 4.
10. On trend
See numbers 4 and 9.
11. Harnessing (i.e. ‘harnessing the power of technology)
Why confuse things with images of horses and reins when ‘using’ does the job perfectly…?
12. Hot new
‘Hot’ is irritating enough. Combine with ‘new’ and it’s enough to (in the words of a colleague of mine) ‘make your teeth itch.’
Sounds like a brand of shampoo. ‘Nuff said.
Is your product or new initiative likely to bring about radical social and political change? Probably not.
Everyone claims their organisation, product or service is innovative. If you can show (rather than tell) people you’re innovative, you’ll be much more convincing...
16. ‘In our DNA..’
This is usually an attempt to invent a sense of zeitgeist...and rarely sounds plausible
17. ‘In a time when..’
Usually precedes a desperate attempt to create a ‘hook’ for a story e.g. ‘In a time when people are thinking about summer holidays/going back to school/Christmas shopping*.’ But those aren’t hooks - they’re just reasons why an editor might run a story now (rather than next week or month). A hook shouldn’t be a hunch or a vague notion about something. It should be something concrete: a new piece of research, campaign or piece of legislation, for example.
*delete as applicable
Often used in the context of dreary management speak e.g.’Sustainability Solutions Managed Programme.’ Dreadful.
19. Bespoke solutions
Even more dreadful.
Makes me think of men’s hair dye. And George Clooney. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing.
21. ‘In the light of’
See number 17.
22. ‘A wealth of’
‘Lots’ does the job just fine.
23. Hotbed (i.e. a hotbed of talent)
Often used to make exaggerated claims. The Brit School, Liverpool FC Academy and Royal School of Ballet Junior Associates could feasibly be described as 'hotbeds of talent'. The Surrey School of Dancing's Under 4s dance troupe? Probably not.
24. Fast approaching (i.e. 'with x fast approaching')
Another one that often precedes a weak hook for a story (See 17 and 21).
Usually related to awards of some sort and vastly overinflated. The Oscars are prestigious. So are the Booker Prize and Nobel Peace Prizes. Retail employer of the month for Gravesham and Dartford? Not so much.
Used in the vast majority of press release quotes I read. I’m sure they are, but most people don’t go round saying they are ‘thrilled’ about things these days. Quotes that sound like a real person said them (in 2014 not 1914) are much more likely to get published.
30. Hot topic (as in ‘the ‘hot topic of the moment')
Another one that usually precedes a very tenuous story hook.
31. Hot button topic
32. ‘Real world’
Usually used in the context of something like ‘real world’ experience. As opposed to, erm, other worldly experience...?
33. ‘The next wave of’
See 30 and 31
Often used to describe something that sounds pretty unexciting.
Commonly used to describe an upcoming event that a few D-listers will be attending
Commonly used to describe the line-up of an upcoming event i.e. 'a glittering line-up' a few D-listers will be attending.
39. Exclusive (when referring to products or services)
A thinly-veiled attempt to suggest something is new or original (when it isn't)...
40. Critically acclaimed
Unless you’re talking about a household name, you’re probably exaggerating (i.e. their mum thought it was good).
41. Internationally acclaimed
Their mum thought it was good and their auntie.
42. ‘Has won praise’
See 40 and 41
43. The nation’s best
Another one that’s often a barely disguised claim that something is original (it rarely is)...
45. ‘The brainchild of...’
Commonly used to describe a fairly mediocre idea. And what's wrong with the word 'idea' by the way?
47. Eagerly anticipated
Their mum is looking forward to it
49. Winning formula
Another one that's commonly used to describe a mundane concept or idea.