Can we have our words back please?

Let’s be quite clear - although digital media has overtaken traditional media to a large extent, writing remains a must-have skill for PR pros. Online content, offline content, it’s all been lovingly crafted by wordsmiths who take a real pride in their art. Searching for that perfect word or phrase can be a frustrating, but ultimately rewarding process.

So it’s more than mildly irritating when some words, which have traditionally held a certain gravitas, are diluted in meaning through, at best, overuse, and, at worst, lazy misuse. Writers will have their own pet hates, but here are three of the worst offenders (that happen to all begin with G).

Genius

Ground-breaking scientists, prominent figures in business or the arts, anyone capable of taking a gigantic mental leap to arrive at something profoundly innovative – these are geniuses.  Now the bar is seemingly set so low that X-Factor contestants covering famous songs in falsetto, or Apprentice hopefuls inventing new products that escape spontaneous ridicule by Amazon buyers are cheerily awarded ‘genius’ status. Please don’t go near this word if you don’t know what you’re doing with it.

See also: Legend

Green

A particular nuisance for any business trying to make a serious impact in environmental technology, sustainability or renewable energy, is the overuse of the word ‘green’.  The mere presence of the colour green on corporate websites is evidence enough for some that companies are sustainability champions, when even a superficial inspection of their commitments would prove otherwise. The word is now even used as a verb: to ‘green’ something (usually a building), has come to mean making it environmentally friendly, when this could simply mean turning the heating down by one degree.

The moral here? Good environmental PR or CSR communicates a genuine commitment to sustainability in an engaging way, and doesn’t simply paper over cracks.

Guru

I’m on dodgy ground here, not least because this is admittedly a similar entry to ‘genius’, but also because the PR industry loves to label as a ‘guru’ someone who is an expert in their field. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s a helpful title. But let’s apply some caution and scrutinise the qualifications of those given the guru moniker.  Experts can add real credibility to a PR campaign, helping to achieve great results, and at this PR agency we only settle for the best. Maybe I could become a blogging guru…that’s a genius idea.

Max Hammond, account manager