Have you ever landed on a website, read what was there, then still not known what in the blazes that company does? You understood all the words, but you just couldn’t seem to get the gist of what they were getting at.
Buzzspeak: It's been killing intelligent conversations since … well, forever. Buzzspeak is a collection of words that might look and sound like English, but they’re anything but plain English. We’ve gotten so used to hearing these words that now we simply tune them out. But they’ve lost their meaning and have no place in our daily discourse, especially when it comes to business.
In order to tell people exactly what you mean without using any of those buzzwords that no one hears anyway, here are five words you should eradicate from your business vocabulary and some plain English replacements that your audience will appreciate being used in their place.
Every time I hear this word, a punch reflex comes up—I want to beat things. Why? Because it’s convoluted, highfalutin' and completely unnecessary. If you think you sound smarter for using it, please do us all a favor and think again. I hear this word most commonly used in conjunction with the words "strategy" and "solution."
Webster's defines the word "overarching" as “Including or influencing every part of something.” So why don’t you just say that?
Buzzspeak: Bob, we’ve crafted an overarching strategy for the entire marketing program designed to increase audience engagement and ROI simultaneously.
Plain English: Bob, we’ve built a solution that covers your marketing backside and makes you look brilliant in the most important places: to your boss, to your audience and for your bottom line.
My clients want their backside covered, and they don't want any surprises. They don’t care about overarching. What they do care about is that things are being dealt with and that they look good to the people who matter while these things are getting done.
Ay yi yi! I get it—whatever you’ve created is so spectacular that the world has never seen anything like it. I see this word used almost daily in the pitches I get from PR firms.
But here’s the thing: You don’t have permission to use the word "disrupt" to describe your own achievements and products. Being disruptive is an observation, not a goal, and that’s why you sound like a fool when you shout out to the world, “We’re disrupting our industry!” No, you’re just disrupting my stomach. Only other people can call you disruptive.
Webster's defines "disrupt" as “to cause (something) to be unable to continue in the normal way, or to interrupt the normal progress or activity of (something).”
I’m betting that instead of disrupting whatever you think you’re disrupting, you’re transforming it and improving it. You’re changing the way people think, feel and behave. So why not say that? Imagine the online graphic design service Canva as you read the following:
Buzzspeak: We’re disrupting the online graphics space.
Plain English: Ever wish you didn’t have to hire a graphic designer for every little project? Canva makes it easy for anyone to be a graphic designer. We make your life easier—and more beautiful.
Buzzspeak misses the truth. You’ll end up being much more disruptive if you dare speak plain English.
A dear friend of mine says this word should only be used in reference to weddings. I tend to agree. Do you know what it means? Facebook’s Insights say it’s one thing. A blog you read the other day says it’s another. When it comes to engagement, the definition is muddy, muddy, muddy.
Webster's defines "engage" as “to hold the attention of or induce to participate.”
So why not use words that will help you be clear, heard and understood, and get out of the mud?
Buzzspeak: This new overarching strategy is sure to increase customer engagement on social media.
Plain English: Our goal? To increase traffic to the Wonder Widget blog from Facebook. Our strategy? To add an image to all the blog posts we share on Facebook. Why? Because studies show that people interact 120 percent more with posts that contain images than those without. Bam!
Just put a ring on it, and say what you mean, including the wheres and whys. Would you ask a girl to marry you by saying, “We could increase our daily engagement rate should you desire to slide this ring on the fourth finger of your left hand.” Dear me, I hope not. And if so, I hope she says no.
Man, you must be a VIP to use ROI as much as you do. LOL.
Please don’t speak to me in acronyms, especially when you don’t know what the acronym means. Sure, we all know that ROI stands for return on investment, but what is the investment you're talking about and what are you hoping to get in return?
The fix for this one is simple: Just go for plain English when tempted to jam an acronym in where it doesn’t belong (read: daily conversation). Whenever you want to use "ROI," call out the extended definition instead.
Buzzspeak: We’ve devised an overarching strategy designed to increase the ROI of our 2014 marketing efforts.
Plain English: Our goal for 2014 is to increase sales through online channels while keeping our online ad spend the same. This strategy will do just that.
I don’t know about you, but I’m signing up for the plain English version every day of the week.
The publishing industry has batted this term around for ages. It’s just a fancy word for “How many people are in your audience ready and waiting to buy something you have to sell?”
In the online marketing world, a platform is your social footprint. It includes all your social media followers, blog/email list subscribers and the people who follow your digital work. When you're talking about the ways you're attempting to attract more followers or supporters, killing the buzzspeak is simple: Just describe what you’re doing and why.
Buzzspeak: I'm building my platform in order to more directly connect with my target audience.
Plain English: I'm writing blog posts and commenting on my colleagues’ posts to gain more visibility. Through that visibility, I’m hoping to get people to take a look at my work and ultimately follow me so they can then share my work and I can earn more followers and supporters.
When someone asks about your audience, don't tell them about your platform. They want to hear about the flesh-and-blood people who are your prospects and customers—not some buzzword that can't help them visualize what you're talking about.
The problem with buzzspeak is that we think people understand what we’re saying, but they don’t—they’re just as in the dark as we are, only they’re too embarrassed to tell us they don’t get it.
In the interests of saving time, lose these five words from your lexicon. Instead, ask that gal to marry you. And if she asks why, tell her that a lifetime with you is sure to be filled with more fun, love and friendship than that little ring could ever provide.
That’s far more meaningful than increasing your ROI through an overarching engagement strategy that will disrupt the world of marriage.
Read more articles on marketing.