Journalists as Buzzword Killers

A post today from Josh Gordon on words to avoid in content marketing gets to the heart of what content marketers must do: think like journalists.

In his post,  he reports on an effort by PR strategist Adam Sherk to enumerate the frequency of 98 marketing buzzwords in current press releases.  As Sherk acknowledges, he is building upon a list David Meerman Scott compiled last year of “top gobbledygook phrases used in 2008.”

Here are the top 12 offenders:

  1. leader
  2. leading
  3. best
  4. top
  5. unique
  6. great
  7. solution
  8. largest
  9. innovative
  10. innovator
  11. award winning
  12. exclusive

Now as Gordon notes, such words are bad enough when they appear in press releases. But in content marketing, they are disastrous. As he says, “when content marketing looks like a product promotion it gets ignored like a product promotion.”

For anyone trained in B2B journalism, the terms in the above list (and the remaining 86 in Shirk’s list) are obvious no-nos. Many B2B editors cut their teeth rewriting press releases for their publication’s product and services section. Their first lesson was almost always to remove any form of endorsement language. It might not be practical to personally review products, but it was an absolute obligation to remove any promotional overtones and stick to the facts in the release, even in supplier quotes. (Sadly, as advertising has gotten scarcer, editorial standards have gotten laxer, resulting in such over-the-top quotes as—really, I did not make this up—“the outstanding part quality produced is outstanding—just awesome.”)

Though it’s been said here before,  it’s worth repeating: If content marketing is to fulfill its promise, it must adopt a journalistic ethos. That can be done through PR or marketing people learning to think like journalists, or by hiring journalists. But one way or another, it must be done.