A version of this story first appeared on
PR Daily in September 2011.
Every profession has its own language, and God knows during my 20 years in the news business, I learned an entire vocabulary that makes zero sense outside the newsroom.
As I embrace the world of public relations, I’m learning a whole new language. I’m trying to adopt many of the terms that come with the territory, some of which actually convey exactly what point we’re trying to get across.
That said, there are some terms that I just can’t manage to swallow, let alone bring myself to use. I cringe every time they come up.
Whenever one of these PR-specific words appears, I write it down in the back of my notebook to look up later. Here are some real gems:
My best guess is that this term is a mutation between “planning” and “thoughtful.” I’ve heard it used in the context of “we need to be planful
about this.” I would suggest the alternative word “smart” or “strategic,” because they are both in the dictionary and everyone knows what they mean.
Going back to my editor days, I have to point out that this is not a real word. Somehow the phrase “what did you learn” is now “what are your learnings,” which bugs me because “learn” is a verb while the made-up “learnings” is a noun. It just befuddles the mind. My suggestion would be to stick to “lessons.”
: This comes up time and time again, particularly when talking about approaches. For me, any reference to this word outside religious or alternative medicine circles is just wrong. Alternatives could be “complete” or “encompassing.”
Please, can’t we just say “ideas” instead?
I’m not entirely clear on the meaning of this term, but I know it’s elaborate. Apparently it’s used to describe the various ways to communicate to different parties. I prefer simply to use “how we communicate.”
Buckets and pillars:
While I like the visual nature of these terms—used to describe different categories or tasks—it’s still off-putting. Plus, it consistently comes up. Tasks, categories, topics, or jobs are clearer for me. A bucket makes me think of a circular file.
As in, “What is the ‘the’ of what we’re tying to get across?” Not the ’70s rock band. How about making it simpler and just using “big idea”?
This acronym is not confined to the PR world. It comes up all across business sectors. It means “Big Hairy Audacious Goal,” although I’ve often seen the “A” interchanged with that other
name for a donkey. Most people who use it don’t even like it, but they don’t have an alternative. Let me suggest big goals, ultimate goal, top goal, or, simply, goal, none of which brings a terrible, lasting visual.
Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor. He heads up the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.