Clichés PR Pros Love to Hate (And How to Write What You Really Mean)

August 27, 2013

By: Rebecca
There is a certain type of list post that makes the rounds every few months or so. Generally, it's a long string of words that journalists and PR types have pulled out of press releases and deemed clichés. The ever-expanding blacklist includes “innovative,” “leading,” “cutting-edge,” “out-of-the-box,” and many, many, MANY more.
Adjectives are particularly prone to landing on these lists, since lazy writers overuse them; it's a lot easier to label a new product “innovative” than to actually explain what's new and amazing about it – and then let the reader decide whether or not it lives up to the dictionary definition of innovation.
The advice in all of these cliché blog posts generally boils down to one rule: don't use these words. That's fine advice. We could expand it further to urge PR reps. and marketers to ease up on the adjectives in favor of real proof points that reflect customer needs. Beyond that, though, what can you do if your company wants a clichéd phrase included in a release, blog, byline article or other piece of content? There are ways to freshen up even the most tired words. A thesaurus can help, but so can more detailed storytelling.
Let's use “leading” as an example. Do you have to say that your company is a leader in the industry (because all of your competitors say the same thing)? What makes it a leader? Thanks to years of abuse in tens of thousands of press releases, “leader” no longer means much of anything. If you want to tell a story about your company's leadership, you'll have to figure out what makes you a leader and why anyone should care.
Here are some questions you can ask about this overused modifier to lead you to more substantive ways of describing your company's position at the front of the pack:
“Leader” might be a blacklisted word, but that doesn't mean you can't tout your genuine, demonstrable leadership if it's something that benefits your customers and prospects. You'll just have to work a little bit harder to define and explain it in a way that is truly innovative, cutting-edge and out-of-the-box.
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