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Avoiding Gobbledy Gook Puke

Avoiding Gobbledy Gook Puke

Does tech jargon have its place in PR writing
Bob Geller, Senior Vice President, N.Y.

Steve Kayser of Cincom Expert Access blog had an excellent post (it appears to be written by David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” ) which decried “corporate gobbledygook Puke.”

The author described an exercise in which he worked with Factiva to analyze the words used in press releases in North America. This revealed an overabundance of empty tech terms – words that add little or no meaning but are used ad nauseum.

He reported: The winner was “next generation,” with 9,895 uses. There were over 5,000 uses of “flexible,” “robust,” “world class,” “scalable,” and “easy to use.” Other notably overused phrases with between 2,000 and 5,000 uses included “cutting edge,” “mission critical,” “market leading,” “industry standard,” “turnkey,” and “groundbreaking.” Oh and don’t forget “interoperable,” “best of breed,” and “user friendly,” each with over 1,000 uses in news releases.

He describes why this happens, and recommends a cure of jettisoning the engineering and marketing department BS and instead writing in plain and direct language targeted to your intended audiences and the problems they want to solve.

I think this is great advice and want to expand on it, to address the question in the title of this post.

People use jargon for various reasons, some good, and some bad. Some people use jargon in an attempt to show sophistication and that a company’s product or service is on the cutting edge (whoops, there’s some gobbledygook, see how tough this is?).

Regarding how over or under hyped emerging technologies are, in the enterprise technology world, you might want to also heed Gartner’s famous Hype Cycle Index, which charts the adoption curve for new technologies – clearly it is better to catch technologies that are on the upswing rather than in the Trough of Disillusionment phase

To truly “walk the walk and talk the talk” of an industry you do want to speak its language and also hitch a ride with the topics, trends and technologies that are rising in importance.

The key is that the words you choose to describe these trends and topics should do the job you want – grab attention, convince the reader that it is in their interest to read further, and make it clear what your product or service does and how it can benefit the reader.

The key term above is “benefit,” because it is all too easy and common to dump features on the reader without explaining why anyone should care. Features beg benefits, just like razors need blades and people care more about a tidy desk than about the staples and paper clips that lead to this (sorry, Swingline).

It is all too easy to fall into the trap of relying on tired and clichéd terms that add little or no actual meaning. This brings us to the second (and unfortunately all too common) reason people use gobbledygook puke. It is much easier to recycle hype from the marketing department than to

A) really get inside the heads of your customers

B) understand what something is, how it works, and what this can mean to the customer and industry, and use this information to communicate in a more compelling and meaningful way

  • Steve

    July 23, 2007 at 8:30 am Reply

    Hey – you’re right. David Meerman Scott did write it – most of it anyway – I added the PUKE part – mainly as a nitty personal side comment. I pulled it from our Expert Access E-zine publication http://www.cincom.com/ea and reused just the Q and A on the Expert Access blog – which is a pretty poor excuse for a blog – I mean, mainly because I’m a pretty damn poor excuse for a blogger. Best to you – any clarifications or suggestions send them to me – skayser@cincom.com

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