Mastering the minefield of corporate jargon

Updated: Feb 27, 2019


Busting PR jargon

As the corporate world becomes evermore global – with businesses enjoying a much further reach through online media – those of us from PR or marketing backgrounds are finding ourselves immersed in a sea of jargon, some of which makes sense, and some of which is just down-right confusing. Here are just some of the terms I’ve come across over the years through communications with clients in the UK, but also in the US and beyond.


Thought leadership.

Visit any modern PR or marketing website and one of the specialist services on offer will be the creation and delivery of ‘thought leadership’ (I’m one of those businesses). But what does it mean? PR is often seen as an alternative route to pure marketing, as it can be used to deliver engaging, thought-provoking content rather than simply showing customers an advert for a product or service. Put simply, thought leadership means putting across an opinion or perspective about a topic relevant to the field in which you operate, thereby gaining credibility among customers and fellow businesses in your sector.


Blue-sky thinking.

This refers to being open-minded and generating fresh, innovative ideas with no bounds or preconceptions. But what’s wrong with simply encouraging colleagues to be ‘creative’ and think (ahem) outside the box? Sorry, that’s another example of corporate jargon. But seriously, creative thinking, or “brainstorming” should suffice. (If you ignore the fact that in the UK, many schools and councils have banned the term in favour of “thought shower”, so as not to cause offence to epileptics.)


Reach out and touch base.

Both of these mean “get in contact” with, but, in order to fall in line with our American counterparts, we’ve started to adopt these terms in the UK as well.


Air cover.

No, this isn’t a military term implying you’re looking for shelter from your colleagues because you’ve done something wrong, although it does originate from the military. This simply means obtaining sign-off from management (in order to make sure the buck stops with them, should something go wrong).


Digital native.

Being born in the early eighties and growing up amid the advent of the mobile phone and other digital technology, I’m considered a millennial. Take this one step further, and there’s a new wave of digitally-savvy individuals in town. Today, children as young as three are competent using digital technology and it’s no longer unusual for them to be coding by the age of seven. Therefore, a digital native is someone who has become accustomed to using digital systems as a child rather than an adult.


Moofing.

Never heard of this? Nor had I, until a couple of months ago, when I explained to a colleague that I was working away from the office that day. Apparently, I was moofing. Moofing is being described as the next-generation way of working and stands for “Mobile Out of OFfice”, referring to any work carried out on a mobile device while on-the-go.


KPI (Key Performance Indicator).

Having had to implement KPIs in previous companies, I loathe this term. Rather like the term ‘targets’, it generally instils fear in employees and in my experience, has proved to be a time-consuming, admin-heavy method of measuring an employee’s performance and/or progress. A far more constructive approach staff appraisals is to sit down together, coffee in hand, and discuss good-old ‘strengths vs weaknesses’, as well as realistic goals for the forthcoming month, year, etc. We’re all adults, after all.


Navigating your way through a myriad of marketing jargon can be daunting at times and can isolate those who have the potential to become great business leaders. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Just be true to yourself, and others will soon learn to speak your language, so to speak, leaving nothing standing between you and your blue-sky, I mean innovative, ideas.

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