Words and phrases PR spokespeople should avoid – Info PR
Everyone appears to be ‘humbled”—but the majority are completely misusing
The same goes for several words that crop up in presentations and remarks
from spokespeople and undermine the intended message. Here are some words
you should weed out of your interviews and speeches:
Sports stars, politicians and film stars appear particularly fond of the
term. Just last week Canadian Soccer President Steve Reed said the
organization was “very humbled” to win the bid to host the World Cup in
2026 alongside USA and Mexico, which is odd because the word can be taken
to mean embarrassed and defeated.
Distracted audiences? Mind-numbing topics? Cut through the clutter with creative corporate writing.]
What he meant was “honored” because he was describing something that his
organization surely feels proud about. Losing that World Cup bid, on the
other hand, would have potentially been a humbling experience.
Mr Rees is far from being alone in his misuse of this word. Hilary Clinton
once said in a speech that she was “very proud and very humbled,” which is
pretty much impossible at the same time.
Recently, the Labor party’s Janet Daby told reporters she felt ‘humbled and
delighted’ to win the Lewisham Easy by-election—the word you are looking
for Janet is ‘honoured’.
There are two theories about this misuse of vocabulary: Either a
spokesperson has heard others say it in interviews and thought that it
sounded good without really understanding the meaning, or some—particularly
the rich and famous—want to be seen as being humble.
If media spokespeople are going to use this overused word, they should at
least use it in the right context.
This is very similar to spokespeople
saying how “excited” they are
It sounds scripted, like a press release is just being read aloud, and it
also sounds false if the issue they are discussing is bland or dry.
Do you believe it when a spokesperson says, “We are passionate about
You audience wants to see someone who is passionate—but that passion should
come through from the way he or she discusses a subject and the examples
used to support the overall message. Show; don’t tell.
Talk of passion is probably best left to the bedroom.
‘Pleased to announce’
This is another one of those expressions found in bad press releases which
sometimes makes their way into media interviews.
Again, there is the issue of the word making the interview sound
scripted—but it is also completely pointless. It is fair to assume that if
an organization is issuing a press release or giving interviews about a new
service or product, they are pleased to be making that announcement. The
audience doesn’t need it spelled out.
News outlets aren’t going to use quotes of spokespeople saying how pleased
they are to make an announcement. They will use quotes that show why and
how what you are announcing should matter to their audience.
Unless you are a member of the Four Tops, there is absolutely no reason to
utter the phrase “reach out.”
It is an example of the horrible boardroom language which all too often
finds its way into media interviews. A quick Google search will show that
spokespeople who use this phrase are widely derided, yet it continues to be
used. Fortunately, the English language offers some much better
alternatives, such as “contact” and “appeal.”
‘Leveraging our synergies’
If you thought that the words “leveraging” and “synergy” were painful,
imagine the horror of combining them together in one sentence.
Is it possible to leverage synergies? Does it mean anything at all? If
people can’t follow what a spokesperson is saying they will switch off and
the opportunity a media interview presents will be lost.
‘That’s a great question’
If this phrase is used sparingly, it can be an effective way for a
spokesperson to buy themselves a little thinking time before responding to
a difficult question.
However, when it is used repeatedly it can become one of those
distractions, a bit like starting
every response with “so,” which can irritate audiences.
What phrases would you add to the list, PR Daily readers?
Article Prepared by Ollala Corp