Tag Archives: public relations

Candy coating

There wasn’t as much time as I had hoped yesterday to read my new Euphemisms book; however, euphemisms continued to play in my mental background as I went about my business.

At one point during the day, my mind wandered back to my days working for a Fortune 100 company, employed in what my new dictionary calls “legislative advocacy leadership.” Large corporations are masters at euphemistic technique, a talent that serves them well when applied artfully. I am betting there are readers who have worked in corporate America who have examples to share. Please?

We had “resource realignment,” translation: layoffs. When competing for business that we didn’t win, we were “deselected.” When we made one of the cuts preceding final selection, we were “down selected.”  We also had an “appearance policy,” which was a dress code. Oh, the good old days.

It’s been a while since I worked directly for a corporate concern, but yesterday I received notice of a seminar on “Capture Management.” At the risk of revealing a pinhole in my skill set, I trust this has something to do with sales.

Government uses euphemisms too. They have “revenue enhancements” and “quantitative adjustments.” The financial industry refers to “correction” when the market falls. Every sector has its rose-colored lingo.

I’ll close today with a list excerpted from comments posted on an article on Education World’s website. It’s been around the block but never ceases to amuse me. I might award first prize to our nation’s hardworking teachers for euphemistically finding the bright spot in every trying situation:

Molly demonstrates problems with spatial relationships.
It’s November and she still hasn’t found her cubby.

Paul’s leadership qualities need to be more democratically directed.
He’s a bully.

Jonathan accomplishes tasks when his interest is stimulated.
He has the attention span of a gnat.

Alfred demonstrates some difficulty meeting the challenges of information retention.
He’d forget his name if it wasn’t taped to his desk.

Bunny needs encouragement in learning to form lasting friendships.
Nobody likes her.

Joel appears to be aware of all classroom activities.
He just can’t focus on the one we’re involved in.

David frequently appears bored and restless. You might want to consider placing him in a more challenging environment.
Prison, perhaps?


Filed under All Things Wordish, Marketing/Advertising/PR

Leading nowhere

It’s Monday and presumably we’re all rested up and ready to face the work week. While you’re enjoying that first cup of coffee and reviewing your calendar, maybe before you step into the Monday staff meeting, how about a word challenge?

Who plans to write at least one press release this week? As the first quarter draws to a close, corporate communications types will be busy crafting earnings releases to be issued in early April. Maybe you’re working on your organization’s annual report. Whether you’re a one-person shop or member of a sales team, sometime this week you will likely tell someone what your organization does, for whom and how.

Sadly but necessarily, we’ll all use the same tired words we’ve been using for decades. In all the years I’ve been involved in helping organizations describe what they do, I haven’t managed to climb completely out of the word rut.

Think for a moment about how you would say, in two sentences, who your organization is and what it does. Say it out loud or write it down. Or look at your company’s mission or boilerplate statement.

Notice whether what you wrote—or what your employer has already written—uses any of the following words: “leading” (or “leader”), “solution,” “innovative,” “premier” or “state of the art?”

If so, then the good news is that you’re not alone. The bad news is that you’re not alone. This basically means everyone else is making the same claims you are. I do it too, and I can honestly say that I’ve written or repeated all of these words for the organizations I’ve represented.

Last week, Ragan’s PR Daily reported the 25 words most commonly used in press releases. These were culled by PR strategist Adam Sherk, using an aggregation tool that, from what I could gather, did not pick up boilerplate language.

The list won’t surprise you, but perhaps it will get us all thinking of how we might choose better words to express what we do and why we do it better than anyone else.

For example, if we all say we’re leading, then is anyone really leading? What is premier, exactly? Whether we make wireless routers or nose hair clippers, peddle consulting services or plumbing services, how innovative or state-of-the-art are we, really?

“Solution” topped the list, appearing 776 times in a 24-hour period.  I once worked for a computer services company that once told its tens of thousands of employees to refrain from using the word “solution” because it implied that its customers had “problems.” It makes you wonder how many problem-free customers comprise the target market for any service provider.

I’m not here to offer magic synonyms, at least not today. I’ve not even sure synonyms are the answer. Otherwise, we’re going only as far as “foremost,” and “ground-breaking.”

Are there more meaningful words, or expressions of ideas, from which to choose, or do we need a whole new vocabulary for this young decade altogether?

I plan to give this additional thought and I encourage you to do the same.

Who can produce a compelling lead paragraph or boilerplate statement, for a real or fictitious press release, that does not contain any of Sherk’s top 25 words? There might be a prize for the most ground-breaking entry.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Marketing/Advertising/PR