Press release bingo helps PR pros cut down on overused words

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If you read press releases as part of your job, then you know they can get very repetitive.

A SHIFT Communications study of nearly 78,000 press releases revealed the 50 most commonly used words, and instead of another article lamenting the use of jargon, the firm released a game called “Bad Press Release Bingo” for PR pros to play alone or in the office.

“Business” topped the list with more than 10,000 press release mentions; “market,” “new,” “research,” “global,” “press,” “information” and “news” each garnered more than 3,000 mentions, and words such as “industry,” “growth,” “forward,” “solutions,” “performance,” “standard,” “sales,” “value” and “data” had more than 1,000 mentions each.

Chris Penn, SHIFT’s vice president of marketing technology, said the words that made the list were unsurprising and pointed to a “herd mentality.”

“If you pick up a copy of Inc. Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, or Fast

Company , you see many of these words in the headlines [and] in the glowing pieces about leaders in your field,” Penn says. “By association, you begin to use those words to describe yourself, especially in outgoing communications.”

The problem with using these words so much, he says, is it causes them to become diluted.

“Everything becomes innovative,” Penn says. “Everything becomes leading.”

More than 16 million words—not counting the press releases’ boilerplate language—were analyzed in the study. The 2014 press releases were taken from BusinessWire, PRWeb, MarketWired, and PRNewsWire.

[RELATED: Master analytics and create reports that speak volumes to executives at our PR measurement conference.]

Though use of jargon isn’t anything new, playing bingo to hone writing skills certainly is.

Young says presenting the words in the context of a game can help PR pros even more by actively helping them recognize the words they reflexively overuse.

“Rather than just providing a blunt instrument of ‘thou shalt not use these words,’ the game encourages you to actively think about the words you’re hearing,” Young says.

Will you give the game a try, Ragan readers? Do you think you could get Bingo from one of your own releases?

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