Are buzzwords killing storytelling in PR?

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Every industry has its own set of buzzwords and PR is no different! A buzzword is described as ‘a word or phrase, often an item of jargon, that is fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context’. And if you’ve ever worked in an office you will be very familiar with some of the phrases that come in and out of fashion, and start to appear in company presentations, emails and even chats around the kettle.

A recent survey of 2,000 UK employees by Glassdoor revealed the corporate jargon that us Brits find the most annoying.

Some of the phrases you may be all too familiar with, like ‘touch base’, ‘blue sky thinking’ and ‘we’re on a journey’ – are the top three most irritating. But some are new to me, for instance, ‘run it up the flagpole’ and ‘punch a puppy’.

Many of the terms have been coined by strategists and psychologists with the aim of developing a strong company ethic, but some have lost their meaning, become overused and frankly, annoying.

Although PR favourite ‘thought shower’ made the list at number 6, I was surprised to see ‘storytelling’ didn’t make the cut. It’s definitely a term that is overused by our industry, so much so that it has lost its meaning. It’s as though the PR industry collectively came up with the term a few years ago and now it doesn’t mean anything.

Regardless of its overuse, the concept of storytelling remains important in PR. We must develop stories that bring a brand’s message to life, craft phrases to inspire conversations and encourage audiences to share the content. We also have the challenge of aligning to the objectives and messaging of our clients, while remaining interesting to the journalist receiving the information and the audience consuming it.

But the content must have a purpose, this is why at Whiteoaks we have developed an audience-centric approach called Content with Intent. Our approach helps cuts through the noise with content that hits the mark and focuses on what the audience wants to hear.

Particularly, in the B2B technology space we find that clients are so passionate about their products and want to focus on the features and functions in their content, but audiences will want to consume content that resonates with them and addresses the issues and challenges they face with clear guidance.

In order to make content hit the mark, it must focus on what the audience wants to hear, rather than just what the company wants to say – and this applies to all content, be it a technical whitepaper, a rapid response to breaking news or a social media post.

While buzzwords are ever-present in the world of PR and business, and companies tell their stories through the medium of PR, storytelling is important but content must have a meaning and focus on what audiences want to hear rather than what companies want to say.