Buzzwords: a necessary evil or multiple shades of grey?

By Ollie Horsley, Specialist Content Creator

Are you a value-adding brandividual utilising holistic storytelling to leverage your influence and drive agile new synergies? Or do you, like so many others, recoil at the very sight or sound of too many buzzwords?

Image Credit: HR Technologist

Type the term ‘buzzwords’ into the Google news tab and you’ll find countless articles decrying their use. Many of these articles appear to be responding to LinkedIn’s ‘Buzzword Beaters Bracket’ launched earlier this month, which has generated, well, quite a buzz.

Presenting a fresh spin on the brackets used to keep track the progress of teams in sports tournaments, the Buzzword Bracket plays common buzzwords against each other to find the most annoying of the bunch. The winner (or loser) that surpassed all other contenders in irritating people the most was ‘disruption’.

For those who aren’t in the know, a buzzword is a word or phrase, often labelled as jargon, that is fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context. You could argue that ‘buzzword’ is in itself a buzzword.

In B2B tech PR, buzzwords are used often and in abundance. Once they enter the business lexicon, they represent a meaning that is universally understood. Rather than taking a whole sentence or paragraph to build context, you can do it with just one or two words.

For example, in supply chain management, the term ‘digital decisioning’ has become widely adopted as a way of referencing the process of making crucial business decisions based on insights that are informed by real-time data from various touchpoints across the supply chain network.

Imagine having to read that description every time a piece of content references the practice of digital decisioning. As the term has entered the lexicon it has become commonly used in content written around supply chain management.

In B2B content it pays to be direct. Buzzwords allow you to do this by writing more concisely while continuing to demonstrate value to the reader. However… there’s a big but…

Sifting through the countless articles that call for the banishment of buzzwords, the reason they’re so reviled becomes clear: people feel they are overused and lack originality. Of course, creativity is key to making your content original, engaging and thought provoking. But this has to be balanced with directness and functionality that gives your content purpose and drives your messaging home to the marketing personas you’ve defined.

And that’s exactly what buzzwords can be: direct and functional. Unfortunately, they’re most often overused, sending readers running and causing confusion about what the brand is really trying to convey. It’s why we ourselves recently set out to ‘break up with the cloud’ in a recent campaign we ran around Cloud Expo Europe.

Our view is that buzzwords can play a limited, focused and purposeful role in grabbing attention and signposting in virtual flashing lights what a piece of content is going to broadly be about. But when it comes to the heart of your content, use purposeful, tailored messaging that resonates with your audience instead of relying on the fallback of the buzzword.