Breaking Bad Buzzwords (A Marketer’s Guide to Less BS)

Have you ever had an out-of-body experience in a work meeting? One of those did-I-just-zone-out-or-are-these-people-speaking-Martian moments where you hear people as clear as a bell, but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t figure out what in the world they’re on about?

You hear words, pauses, and see nods of approval from others. But sentences are far from sonorous. They’re not easily digestible. You chew and chew on blurted acronyms. And, although you try your best to take everything in and make it stay – the words just slip through the cracks like sand through a sieve.

You know what I’m talking about, right? Buzzwords. Words that aren’t words. Acronyms. Jargon-y sentences. Marketing dogma. Monday-to-Friday speak that focuses in on laddering up to strategic objectives while still maintaining the essence of a brand through targeted audience demographics.

Ugh.

If stopping eyeballs from rolling (my own & those of others in the room) was a superpower, I’d use mine for good. Promise. My goal? To save the world from meeting after meeting of Buzzword Overkill. I’d swoop in and demand clarity. And detail. And real-human-speak.

I’m not sure if I’d don cape and spandex bodysuit, but that’s not the important thing to ponder on right now (or maybe it is?) Spandex is pretty darn comfy.

Honestly though, all sarcasm and irony aside, in my eyes the use (or often over-use) of professional slang can at once be overwhelming and off-putting. When buzzwords and acronyms are thrown around willy-nilly like confetti, I zone out. My internal monologue takes over, and my mind wanders off to greener, more concise pastures.

Looking back a few years, my career was focused mainly in the arenas of social media and digital marketing.  During this time the word ‘viral’ was my Kryptonite. It was – and often still is – overused. The best thing about an evolving digital and social marketing landscape? More and more marketers and agency partners understand that marketing, storytelling, and channel mix all play together nicely if done well. In fact, I haven’t been asked to make a viral video in at least six months now. It’s like seeing a light at the end of a common-sense tunnel!

But, beyond asking for viral videos and shareable Facebook posts – there’s a new Buzzword heading  for (or already at) Overkill Level 10. And, weirdly/fittingly/hilariously enough… it’s in my actual job title.

That said, before I move onto said word/phrase let me just say this – I love what I do. Love. I wake up each day able to practice my passions – and get paid to do so. That’s a big win. Storytelling in all of its shapes, sizes, forms, and nerdy amplification/distribution subsets really keeps my engine revving.

So, let’s hop to it. I’m sure you’ve guessed the word.

Content.

Yep. Content. 

The word ‘content’ gets bandied about these days in so many shapes, forms, manners, and reckless iterations that I sometimes find my head spinning. Literally.

When talking about campaigns and strategy, lots of folks typically define ‘content’ as a singular item, story type, artistic execution, or any mismatched mixture of the above. Video? Yep, that’s content. Images? Uh huh, that too. Social media posts? You betcha. Infographics? Yessiree. Long-form articles? BIG YES! But  what about those folks who, oftentimes in the same meeting – and sometimes in the same breath – mean something completely different to any of the above? They’re human curveballs sent to strike me out swinging – or at least have me knock a foul-ball into catchable territory.

Because of inconsistencies in how each person in a room defines content, I’ve implemented a rule in meetings where the word ‘content’ is actually banned. Why? Because content itself is a catch-all phrase. It can be the most broad definition of branded communication, or drilled down into a singular touch-point. But, most people don’t take the time do define what they mean when they’re talking content. Which is why it can be a confusing and confounded principle to grasp for a lot of people. It’s also why there are so many divergent views on strategy and campaign roll-out when talking ‘content.’

By banning the word itself, or getting people to substitute it with something silly like ‘pineapple,’ I find meetings are more, erm, fruitful.

Really though. Think about how many times a day a typical marketer, agency suit, or creative hears, writes, or reads the word ‘content.’ Then imagine the word pineapple being bandied about haphazardly instead.

The absurdity, and the absolute frustration in using a nonsensical word when you want to use another kind of makes you stop, think, and be really concise and detailed when talking about strategies and ideas. Which, I reckon, is a good thing when money (or the potential for it) is on the line, right?

We need to be super-iterative when we talk about content. When we talk about context. When we talk about placement. And channel. And insights… and, most importantly, when we’re storytelling on behalf of a brand.

When approaching content marketing (AKA storytelling), the first thing I need to begin a journey into the depths of creativity is data. And from the data, insights. And then information about the product/service/offering we’ll be creating ideas from. Then, we crack into iteration. Into channel. Into creative execution. It’s so much easier to talk about a video series, or an infographic based story, or a long-form textual article, or a quiz than it is to talk about, ugh, ‘content.’

So don’t just take it from me. Take it from all of the eye-rolling-content-saturated-modern-marketeers and do us all a favor. The next time you’re tempted to use the word ‘content’ in a meeting, be super specific. Even in your own mind, think ‘pineapple.’ Sometimes simplifying ideas down to their most basic function is difficult – but embracing the hard stuff means better clarity. And, bigger wins.

Also, it means I’ll still be awake at the table, listening to you – taking it all in, actively engaged and impassioned. And, nodding in delight at your, ahem, pineapple creating acumen. Thank you in advance for your clarity.

Now, who’s up for a tropical cocktail? I seem to have a hankering for one now…

 

 

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