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"New normal", "unprecedented" and "best in class" are some of the words PR professionals might have gotten used to writing in their press releases. Have they become overused? A 2021 study by Cision which surveyed 2,700 journalists across 15 markets earlier this year found "best of breed" to be the most overused term followed by "world-class", "unprecedented", "unique", and "cutting-edge". "Award-winning", "dynamic" and "innovative" also made the list.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to PR professionals in the region to find out what are the top overused words or phrases in press releases, and the words they advise their teams to stay away from. Find out what they think!
Candy Tong, co-founder, Above The Line PR Agency
Overused words: Cutting edge and leading
Words to stay away from: Innovative and award-winning
Arundhati Saha, head of PR, iris Singapore
Overused words: Pivot and leverage
Words to stay away from: Unique and solutions
"An ex-boss once remarked that words such as 'solutions' are best left for eye drops and it has since stuck in my head."
Raja Zalina Raja Safran, head corporate and government affairs, Malaysia and Singapore, Mondelēz International
Overused words: Unprecedented and leadership
Words to stay away from: State of the art and top
Commenting in her personal capacity, Zalina told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: "What is state of the art anyway? Another word I try to avoid would be top, such as 'Safety is our utmost priority' instead of 'top priority'."
Lina Marican, MD, Mutant Communications
Overused words: Leading and innovative
Words to stay away from: Revolutionary and exciting
"We always push back on clients who want to use superlatives or marketing speak. It has no place in a press release - we need to stick to facts instead."
Wu Ying Ying, regional head of content and market communications, Ninja Van
Overused word: Revolutionary
Words to stay away from: Innovate and spawns
"It's really hard to be truly revolutionary unless you're Elon Musk. Yet, I still see this tiring word being exploited in hopes of capturing media's attention. Also, don't just say something is "innovative", describe why. Saying something is innovative doesn't mean it is."
Jasmine Ng, director - public relations, Ogilvy
Overused words: Sustainable, paradigm shift, new normal and diversity
Words to stay away from: General terms such as great, amazing and wonderful
"The term 'sustainable' is very buzzworthy but in most instances, there is no concrete evidence on how it is sustainable. 'Paradigm' is so overused it has lost its meaning. In the age of COVID-19, what other paradigm shift is greater than the pandemic? For 'new normal', how long before it is no longer new? I would think 12 months is more than sufficient, now it's just our way of life. People also often use the word diversity when they are merely referring to gender balance, not diversity in its true sense."
Lars Voedisch, principal consultant and MD, PRecious Communications
Overused words: Cutting-edge and industry-leading
Words to stay away from: Green, solution, network and platform
"Every now and then, we do an exercise at team meetings where junior members of staff need to introduce the clients they're working on but without jargon or placeholders - so they can't use solution, network, platform, provider. Hence, they are trained for their elevator pitches. It's quite fun, really forces you to think what it is the company actually does."
Vijayaratnam Tharumartnam, director, group communications, PROTON
Overused words: Seamless and leverage
Words to stay away from: Champion and vast
"The word 'champion' carries with it an underlay of the objective. It makes sense in sport as rules are defined and parameters set. And there is very little hyperbole when a winning team is called 'champion'.
On the flip side, the use of 'champion' in the context of a brand smacks of hubris. It lacks nuance and is immediately challenging and aggressive. The human response to that is to do exactly the same. And this is not how you want to rub off on your customers. If nothing else it can come across as vain and self-absorbed."
Desmond Ku, founder and director of The Bridge Agency
Overused words: Leading and thrilled
Words to stay away from: Unique and world-class
"I think 'unique' doesn’t have substantial meaning. If you use 'unique' in a press release, you have to specify how unique the product or service it is. But the word itself is just too general and has no concrete meaning. When it comes to 'world-class', we could have different thoughts on the same thing, so it will be misleading the audiences when we are talking about something world-class."
What are your pet peeves when it comes to overused words? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.