How do you cultivate the best possible client-agency relationship? In this three-part series, we take a closer look at the process of working together, obstacles faced and overcome, and ways to nurture success in the quest to do everything a bit more brilliantly.

In part three of our series, Laurie, Mardy and Austin dish on the pitfalls of relying on buzzwords in your communications. While aiming to be “industry leading,” such language can instead lead an organization away from its goal of connecting with audiences.

noun buzz·word ˈbəz-ˌwərd : a word or phrase that becomes very popular for a period of time; an important-sounding, usually technical, word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen

(Source: Merriam-Webster)

Laurie: I started my career as a copywriter and would typically write up to 30 ads a day. I had a couple of goals I set for myself: one was to make each one as different as possible and the other was to avoid using the business buzzwords and phrases that I believed were audience tune-outs. Phrases like “largest selection in town,” “comprehensive services,” and “finest quality anywhere.” I made it my personal challenge to avoid their use and instead communicate what was special about the business using other, hopefully more colloquial terms.

Austin: Yes, and I think now we challenge ourselves and each other, and our clients, to speak a language that is understood by the people we are trying to communicate with. Avoiding buzzwords begins with knowing whom you’re speaking with and everything about the subject matter. Listen to what others are saying. Stay awake, stay on your toes and pay attention to what is current.

Mardy: Definitely, and timeliness is important. I think that’s why buzzwords can be a communications trap: eventually the words lose their meaning. Instead of rushing to use popular industry jargon, take pause and be thoughtful and deliberate about your intent. Draw from the core of who you are as an organization. Think of what grounds you and brings you back to being unique, original. It’s easy to pick up on jargon, or it may seem advantageous to ride trends, but self awareness quickens the search for words that people can relate to and understand in the here and now.

Laurie: Business writing and speaking—in marketing in particular—is loaded with jargon that diminishes us all, don’t you think? It’s also the subject of much unflattering humor. Forbes’ annual Jargon Madness is only one of hundreds of examples that poke fun at the overuse, misuse and just plain use of jargon that can derail what could otherwise be productive communication.

Mardy: So true. Why choose words that are trite, when health is among the most important and personal realities in every person’s life? There is a well of human experience and understanding that can be instantly shallowed by the use of buzzwords. And besides, a healthcare marketer is often striving to educate and illuminate the hearts and minds of individuals, so why diminish the organization’s substance and importance by using empty words?

Austin: Exactly. Actions speak louder than words. What may seem like an intelligent sounding way to shortcut communication can actually risk being proven as a bunch of hot air when the words are put to the test. If you don’t believe us, then take it from the great Weird Al Yankovic. His song “Mission Statement” will surely prove the cringe-worthiness of relying on buzzwords to communicate. A few verses illustrate:

We must all efficiently operationalize our strategies,
Invest in world-class technology
And leverage our core competencies
In order to holistically administrate exceptional synergy.

We’ll set a brand trajectory using management’s philosophy
Advance our market share vis-à-vis our proven methodology
With strong commitment to quality
Effectively enhancing corporate synergy

Bringing to the table our capitalized reputation
Proactively overseeing day-to-day operations
Services and deliverables with cross-platform innovation
Networking, soon will bring, seamless integration
Robust and scalable, bleeding-edge and next-generation
Best of breed, we’ll succeed, in achieving globalization

And gaining traction with our resources in the marketplace
It’s mission-critical to stay incentivized
Our business plan will foster flexible solutions for our customer base
If you can’t think outside the box you’ll be downsized
It’s a paradigm shift! (Hey, Hey! Look out!)
Well, it’s a paradigm shift, now!
(Here we go! Here we go! Here we come! Here we come! Ha!)

Our take: we all have messages worth communicating. You can make those messages more valuable, and memorable, by using language you really mean—and audiences understand. When we’re real with our audiences, buzzwords simply aren’t necessary.

Your take: what’s your opinion of jargon: time-saver or space-waster? Share your thoughts and favorite examples of overused industry speak.

Thanks for listening in and joining the discussion. If there’s a topic you’d like our team to tackle in the future, please let us know.