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Revolution: it might be in the air, but keep it off the page

Buzz
(Photo – Flickr Creative Commons: smemon87)

In the 1970s, revolution was the word on everyone’s lips. In 2011, it’s back, and it’s gone viral. The term is everywhere, it’s on Twitter; it’s on the front page; it’s on Google News, it’s on placards.

Unless you’re writing from atop a tank in Tahrir Square, though, you should probably keep the term ‘revolutionary’ out of your press releases.

It’s a notorious PR buzzword, you see, loathed by journalists and entirely unimpressive to everyday readers tired of hearing it applied to every new product from car tires to cheeseburgers.

It’s not the only offender, of course. In my own, personal revolution, I’d have ‘unique’ chased down and set afire by an angry mob, right after they’d finished with ‘dynamic’. These buzzwords don’t contribute anything to the press release. They just swagger around in the coveted first paragraph looking self-important, suppressing the real story and funneling reader attention off to some Swiss bank from where it never comes back.

There’s an irony here, of course, which is that your story is unique in some way. Whether you’ve invented the iPad or you’ve simply (and brilliantly) repackaged a notepad, you’ve got a unique story in there somewhere.

The trick is to explain why it’s unique, rather than just asserting it – and to explain it in an entertaining way that grabs attention and engages readers. And when you learn to do that, you can make anything unique and a tiny bit revolutionary—even something really, really boring.

The three buzzwords above are just my personal un-favorites; you can find a much more comprehensive list in Adam Sherk’s enlightening blog post here.

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