When PR is done well, it can be brilliant in its ability to promote your brand. More often than not, there are weaknesses in your public relations efforts.

However, many press releases, messages, and other missives miss the mark of what they should achieve. The usual goal in good communications is to omit anything that doesn't effectively amplify what you're trying to say. Unfortunately, there are too many cases where phrasing actively undercuts what you try to say, like verbal food with negative nutritional value that injures the body.

I've picked out nine examples from the overwhelming number of releases I receive, more than 99 percent of which go immediately into the electronic circular file. These jumped out as being particularly bad for a few basic reasons.

  • Hype: You can understand how a company wants to promote itself. But when you cross from spin and promotion into hype, you're making statements that are so factually wrong that you invite even the less jaded in your audience to laugh.
  • Fake excitement: Companies want journalists to pay attention to a release with the hope of getting some coverage. But the breathless tone is virtually never warranted.
  • Nothing there: Often, people writing releases don't know what to say, so they throw in some puffery that sounds silly.

I wish I could say that such communications problems were the province of people whose business is running their companies, not producing PR and marketing materials. Unfortunately, they seem to come most often from agencies that probably charge a good amount to crank out and distribute written tripe.

It may be that the agency has junior people on keyboards trying to earn their keep. Perhaps clients don't spend the time and money to make sure people who represent them have something to say. Or it might be that the business owners refuse to listen to the people who pitch media and insist that they know better what will interest reporters. Whatever the case, you're wasting money and time.

Here are the 9 phrases that are particularly grating at the moment.

So-and-so has never been higher/tougher/harder/whatever

Do you really think it's never been more challenging? Better review history. It's an empty generalization.

There can be no doubt/there is no denying

Oh, yes there can. I embody it and you just triggered my warning system. That's an attempt at proof by insistent claim and no one believes it.

XYZ is the global leader in...

Is that Alexander the Great or Napoleon? Truly big names don't need to say this, unless you're suggesting that you have no credible competition in the entire world, which is ridiculous.

I'm thrilled to share with you...

No, you're not. You just can't think of anything worth saying. Here's a hint: focus on what would be considered truly newsworthy. Keep the thrills to the ski slopes and bungee jumping.

Game-changing

When too many things are game-changing, virtually none are. If there's something of real substance, let it stand up for itself. Almost nothing is so revolutionary as to change an entire industry or market.

A new trend

When applied to something that has been around for a few years at least, as is almost always the case, it's not.

Enter...

...and exit. The "state problem and enter the solution" is so tired that it needs a sleep study.

Exciting

Press releases never convey something exciting. That type of news is leaked to friendly reporters to get significant coverage. If you have to say it, you don't have it.

The client was really pleased with the coverage

How sweet. I must have done something wrong, because it struck you as great promotion.

The only way to avoid language that undercuts your attempts to promote yourself is to pare away mercilessly. Remove anything that doesn't work. Burn clichés to the ground. Provide the attention and resources necessary so that people trying to communicate on your behalf have something to say. Recognize that what you find fascinating or important may not rate a glance from the media.