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Diana Himawan

Published on

July 6, 2020


communications, PR, Tech PR

You: We are seeing a paradigm shift in the industry – game-changers are now disrupting next-generation challenges by leveraging actionable insights, integrating data-driven strategies and adopting a holistic approach to face the new normal.

Everyone else: Why can’t you just say, “Businesses are adapting to new challenges in the industry”?

The use of buzzwords – especially in the tech industry – has been a subject of interest for the longest time. Moris Simson, President and CEO of technology company WaveNet, expressed it perfectly when he said, “If we thought marketing isn’t easy, then the marketing of technology is even harder.”

Despite our best intentions, we probably will continue to use them from time to time (guilty as charged). So why is it that we can’t seem to let go of tech lingo and clichés?

The big why

An easy answer would be to stay relevant. During COVID-19, I’m sure we have all noticed the increased use of words like ‘amid(st)’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘new normal’, ‘fluid situation’ and phrases such as ‘now, more than ever’, and ‘in these challenging times’, which have really started to distract us from important messages. One might even argue that if you don’t use at least one of these words or phrases, are you really writing a COVID-19 piece?

The hard answer would be because we want to appear in the know. Especially in the tech industry, when PR professionals reach out to seasoned journalists or trade publications who have been in this space for years or even decades, you feel the pressure. You definitely don’t want to appear like you don’t know what you’re talking about, so you use them.

The ‘correct’ answer, however, should be because buzzwords form a convenient shorthand for complex ideas. For instance, it is easier and faster to say ‘digital transformation’ than it is to say ‘the radical rethinking of how an organisation uses technology, people and processes to fundamentally change business performance’. It spares people some time and patience in a world where attention span is narrowing.

This brings me to the next point – when the use of buzzwords is appropriate, and more importantly, when it is not.

When it works and when it doesn’t

I have had two different and extreme experiences with buzzwords – some folks want to include ‘flowery terms’ just to take it up a notch while others are have a low tolerance for buzzwords and avoid using any at all cost. The general rule of thumb is to avoid the use of buzzwords in press releases. This is why it is important to understand the style of the approver of the press release so you can provide them with the appropriate counsel.

On the other hand, it works well when being factual. For instance, the sentence, ‘We are now living in the new normal as a majority of the global workforce is forced to adopt work-from-home arrangements.’ The so-called buzzword ‘new normal’ works in this context as it is not only factual, it is relevant to our current situation. Another example would be, ‘Digital transformation projects have been accelerated with the increased adoption of cloud-based technologies.’ Two buzzwords here (do you see them?), but they mean exactly what they mean with no fluff whatsoever.

With that said, pitching a tech story can be tricky . There is a fine line between using tech jargon to actually describe your product or your what your business does and using it to sound impressive. Similarly, it depends heavily on who you’re pitching to. Take a look at the publication, their readers and the journalist you’re reaching out to. You may be surprised, but some publications do appreciate a little bit of fluff, while others may react negatively or even harshly. A general approach won’t work, so tailor your writing based on the person reading it.

Say what you really mean

A simple rule to follow is to say what you really mean. It is definitely easier said than done, so you have to make time to practice this.

Here are three simple steps for you to get there:

  1. Write it and say it out loud. You can then identify which are the facts and which buzzwords you have used to fill in the gaps. At the end of the day, the clearer you can be with your communication, the better. You can trust that both journalists and their readers can sniff these out fast.
  2. Reposition your messaging. Okay, so your buzzwords are gone, but now your writing sounds dry. That’s alright. Rethink the story angle and identify areas of the narrative that you have not tapped on to make your messaging stronger on its own – without the buzzwords.
  3. Elevator pitch. To be a master at this, you need to practice this long-term. One tip is to write as if everything is an elevator pitch – which means expressing your idea in the most honest and direct way you can. As the term suggests, your message must be delivered and received in the short time period of an elevator ride which is usually around 20 to 60 seconds.

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