Wired PR Works by Barbara Rozgonyi

Real-izing Your Virtual Identity

Gobbledygook Makes Viral Hall of Fame | Lists PR Words that Don’t Work

Posted by barbararozgonyi on May 2, 2007

Wrestling with promotional words is fresh in mind. A few minutes ago, I submitted my site to the Open Directory Project. It’s been on my to-do list for longer than I care to admit.  

Today I had to fill out the form three times. Each variation bleached out subjective references so that, in the end, the listing is bland, but somehow starkly powerful.  That’s what you get when you ban descriptive, decorative words that blur communication and turn off readers.

Direct mail marketers would disagree and I would agree with them. As one of them once told me, “Dramatic is a powerful word.” Why, yes, yes it is.

And, PR walks both sides of the aisle: advocates on right write as objective, educated journalists and those on the left write as subjective social media masterminds. Whatever side you’re on, trite is overused and ineffective.

All of which leads me to congratulate David Meerman Scott, author of the upcoming book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, and one of ten new members in Marketing Sherpa’s Viral Hall of Fame.

His project? The Gobbledygook Manifesto, a report on overused terms in technology press releases, including technology companies: next generation, flexible, robust, world class, scalable, easy to use, cutting edge, well positioned, mission critical, market leading, industry standard and turnkey.

MarketingSherpa Summary: You know how PR folks like to use buzz-laden words in their press releases — “next generation,” “flexible,” “robust,” “turnkey,” “best of breed.” Ugh. Such gobbledygook was the topic of an article by consultant David Meerman Scott, a repeat Hall of Famer, who saw superb viral for his new book — by simply seeding the piece on his blog, forwarding the article to a few friends and issuing a press release with the most-used offending words. Total cost: a few hundred dollars. ROI: $50,000 in new business. His cleverness certainly caught fire.

Press releases and publicity snag mentions on the Viral Hall of Fame home page:

Blogs and message boards still appear to be the seeding source of choice. With that said, don’t forget about optimizing press releases. Plant optimized keywords in your headline, opening paragraph and hotlink wording!

Opinions color blogs everywhere, but what the mainstream press has to say still carries a lot of weight. If this wasn’t true, you wouldn’t see online articles from traditional warhorses, such as The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Lucky, popping up everywhere in the blogosphere. *Traditional* publicity bounces like crazy on the Internet.

How do you know what’s right when you write a press release? Set up a news feed like the one at PRWeb. Read every press release in your industry and scan for keywords – both to use in headlines and anchor text links and to ban from your list. Or, take the easy way out and ask an outsider to read your release and highlight any words that sound overly promotional, vague or like gobbledygook. Reopen the document, delete the offenders, edit for flow and release it with confidence.

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