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  1. Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR
    March 19, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

    Taboo words? In social media? You know I don’t think there are many taboo words in social media. It is so free-forming and flowing that anything really goes within context. That said, I’m not too fond of the words pitch, control, and audience regarding our profession. Never have been even in PR 1.0 long before social media came around. I think social media is empowering us to redefine our profession and return to what public and relations mean.

  2. Adam Vincenzini
    March 20, 2010 @ 6:05 am

    Deirdre, very interesting post.
    I wrestle with ‘audience’ as a term a ‘helluva’ lot because I till think an audiences or audiences, the true sense of the word, have always been participatory groups ie Spike Lee at a Knicks game is as much apart of the product on show as the game itself. And so are the 20,000 other people in that stadium. However, you make a good point that the term does have some very traditional thinking attached to it – I think we probably grappke with the uise of this word more than our clients do…but then again, they only need to consider the audiences of one brand as opposed to people like you or I who think about the make up of the people we are trying to reach on behalf of 20 brands or so. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Adam

  3. Adam Vincenzini
    March 20, 2010 @ 6:08 am

    P.S I hate posting comments via BlackBerry…typo city!!

  4. Deirdre
    March 20, 2010 @ 10:32 am

    Hi Ann Marie…very well said! I’m all for returning to the true value and meaning of PR! Thanks for sharing your insights.

  5. Deirdre
    March 20, 2010 @ 10:39 am

    Hi Adam, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think you are right that we tend to grapple more over the term than our clients. We are definitely targeting and listening more to identify the people we want to reach for many different brands, which makes the word audience appear so broad or mass communications. It should be interesting to see what other Taboo Words pop up a long the way! Thanks 🙂

  6. Deni Kasrel
    March 20, 2010 @ 11:26 am

    Words are just that, and meaning is in the eye/ear/mind of the beholder. Let’s hope your concepts begin to permeate PR communities — wherever they may be situated — who may hear, but not yet heed the ideas you espouse.

    Meantime, since you asked, some suggestions for the list:

    Demographics: Much akin to your notation on “audience,” and perhaps just another way of saying the same thing. But hey, it’s a popular term, so shall we nix it?

    Return on Investment: A holy grail(or perhaps third rail) for PR in general and these days even more so when it comes to social media. We should, of course, always be measuring impact, influence, and return on what we do. But these things are not always quantifiable in hard dollars and cents. Some have suggested using the term Return on Influence. Maybe that’s better. Whatever — staunch dedication to bean counting as a way of determining whether or not PR/marketing is working fails to take all aspects into account.

    Social media: Yes, you read that right. It may be too soon to call this one out, but eventually, it may turn out that all media has a social aspect. Thus we will no longer need to tack the word “social” on and we can just say “media.” Far-fetched? Perhaps, but things do seem to be moving in this direction.

  7. Deirdre
    March 20, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

    Deni, thank you so much for sharing your ideas and adding to my list. I definitely think that we need to evaluate the use of the term ROI. We’re so used to talking about ROI to show the outcome of what we do, but in the case of social media, sometimes there is not a direct correlation to the bottom line, but rather you go through influence, participation, engagement and involvement which leads to stronger relationships that can translate into ROI. I often use terms including ROE, ROP and the other ROI (for Return on Involvement). I also find it very interesting what you said about social media and how at some point all media will have a social aspect. Look at the local newspapers that are surviving by creating really strong social networks to give local communities even more in-depth news and information (and a forum to discuss and exchange ideas). It will be interesting to see how media evolves so that everything is social!

  8. Joe Cascio
    March 21, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    As a non-PR, non-marketing person (I’m a technologist), I also think both “message” and “audience” should be taboo, but for perhaps different reasons than you mentioned. Both words imply that people in the “audience” are supposed to listen passively to the “message” and obey it. The implication of both is that “we talk, and you listen”, whereas the idea behind social media is that “you talk and we (the corporation) listens and obeys”. The true touchstone of an effective social media strategy is whether the company actually undertakes changes in their products, business practices or policies in response to what consumers express.

  9. Deirdre
    March 21, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

    Hi Joe, you make an excellent point! And, your explanation, as a technologist, is one of the best I’ve heard. We should never assume that people are just going to passively listen and obey what we say, especially in web communities. This would be very dangerous to any brand. Rather, if brands learn to research (listen) more and then apply the information they’ve learned to provide helpful resources, meaningful content or even help in the form of better customer service, then suddenly consumers feel like they are being recognized, appreciated and heard. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on the taboo words.

  10. Derek DeVries
    March 22, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

    I’d love to see “market” and all of its various uses take a long walk off a short pier.

    As a verb, to “market” something carries the same rotten taste as “pitch” (the only real difference being the “audience” one is “targeting”).

    As a noun, “market” describes an environment that no longer exists where everything is homogenous and can be conquered by a one-size approach that simply involves fiddling with four dials until the right mix is achieved.

  11. Deirdre
    March 22, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

    Hi Derek! You make a great point about the word “market.” I definitely think it describes that homogenous environment with a one-size fits all approach. We just can’t look at Web communities as markets and we definitely can’t “market” to web communities. I guess the word has to go! I’ve speaking much more about the reaching the public and target publics, which seem to resonate with peers and my clients.

  12. Rick Hardy
    March 26, 2010 @ 2:51 am

    Deirdre, thanks for this thought provoking post. I agree with Deni. Words do not hold meaning. People hold meaning. So, it’s not the words that need to be tossed, it’s the meanings that people hold about these words that need to change.

    I don’t think words such as audience and market are going to go away. PR pros will have to deal with these words and the others if they are going to hold conversations with marketing pros. However, it’s the PR pro’s challenge to change the meaning of these words with colleagues in marketing and the board room. Audience, for example, will always be with us, especially in the media. But the meaning of audience, the characteristics of the audience, as you have stated, is different now. I actually think audience is a word that is in transition now. The meaning is changing as people understand the new media environment. Even a small step by a television program to say at the end of the show to follow the program on Twitter and Facebook is evidence of how the term, audience, is transitioning to a different meaning.

    Now, if only the idea/meaning of “control” could change as easily as “audience”…

  13. Deirdre
    March 26, 2010 @ 6:41 am

    Hi Rick! You and Deni make an excellent point. It’s not the words it’s the people who use them. And, I agree that if PR people want to work more with marketing folks then we still have to speak in terms of audiences, messages and markets. It’s definitely a word in transition and it should be interesting to see how small steps lead to more targeted thinking. As for the word control…let’s just hope the thinking changes soon! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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