For years, PR folks have tried to purge buzzwords and jargon from tech marketing. We do this because when your company parrots oversaturated words and expressions, no one listens.
But, we haven’t adequately confronted other members of the gobbledygook family: the conceited siblings of buzzwords and jargon. I call them “gloatwords.”
As much as you want to shout from the rooftops how your company is an industry “maverick” with “groundbreaking” technology that is “intuitive” and “easy-to-use,” you should think twice.
Like jargon and buzzwords, gloatwords are meaningless. But whereas buzzwords and jargon just confuse the media, gloatwords confuse the media and undermine your credibility. They tell journalists not to trust you.
I’ll share an analogy from college admissions. When you applied to college, you had to distinguish yourself from tens of thousands of other candidates. When you interviewed with admissions officers, it probably started this way: “Tell me a little bit about yourself.”
If you were like most tech companies, you would have said, “I’m the leading student in the nation. My notetaking process is revolutionary. My studying habits are best-of-breed. My volume of extracurricular activities is unprecedented. I share so much ‘wow’ with my peers that one could say I’m the Uber of East High School.”
Do you think that would win over an admissions officer? If not, why would it winner over a news reporter?
If you want the media to understand and believe you, you need to let your gloatwords die.
Gloatwords to Avoid:
- Leading _____
- The Uber of _____*
- Cutting edge
- World’s most trusted _____
*or insert hot startup
These gloatwords could describe any company in the tech industry. That’s the problem. You can’t attract top media outlets when you overgeneralize your story. Everyone else seems to be using gloatwords though, so shouldn’t you?
Is everyone else getting covered in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal? How often do you read a good news article about a “revolutionary” software update?
Whether you’re interviewing with a journalist, speaking to your PR agency, or pitching a potential customer, gloatwords backfire. Instead of demanding to know why you’re “best-in-class,” the audience will just tune you out.
Even the most deeply technical, “pioneering” companies can be explained in simple language – in under 30 seconds – without a single gloatword.
Your elevator pitch should not crutch on a more famous company. Remember, you’re not part of the Uber, Zendesk, and Airbnb in-crowd if you compare yourself to them or copy their lingo. Instead, you risk sounding overinflated or worse, ignorant.
“Jargon is used to intimidate, confuse and keep the opaque curtain closed on investors,” says Matt Hall, president and co-founder of Hill Investment Group. Gloatwords are used similarly. Trust me, we are “innovative.” If you have to ask why, obviously you just don’t get it.
Listeners hear your ego instead of your point.
The alternative is to be empathetic to your audience.
Remember, members of the media receive hundreds of pitches per day and talk to many companies and people. Be conscious of that.
The first conversations with journalists should be basic and informative. Let them ask the questions and, based on their level of knowledge and interest, you can get specific. Instead of using gloatwords, use facts and great stories to demonstrate your value.
Learn from the questions you are asked repeatedly. If reporters often ask for examples or use cases, start sharing those preemptively. They are tactful, unpretentious ways to show why your company matters.
When in doubt about buzzwords, jargon, and gloatwords, ask your PR team. Part of our job is to give you blunt feedback. We care about your public image as if it were our own.
If the tech world dropped the self-aggrandizement, it would be truly [fill in a favorite gloatword, one last time].