PR pros should know media jargon

During the past few weeks, a potential client asked for an elevator pitch, an editor called about a brite, and a broadcaster requested a phoner.

During the past few weeks, a potential client asked for an elevator pitch, an editor called about a brite, and a broadcaster requested a phoner.

To be successful, PR people must know the jargon of advertising, broadcasting, film, journalism, publishing, and theater, as well as PR. It is regrettable that PR professionals often do not know the language of the media.

Here is a list of common errors that I spotted during my career, which includes work at three PR firms: Ruder & Finn (as it was called then), Richard Weiner, and Porter Novelli. Many of these errors also appear frequently in major papers and other media.

Masthead. An area of a publication with its name, details of ownership, and other information. It usually appears on the editorial or contents pages, not atop page one. The title's name atop page one is called the flag, logo, or nameplate.

Mat. A feature article distributed free to weekly papers and other media. The word is short for matrix, from the days of metal type. It is not a matte, which among other things, is a cardboard or other border placed around a picture.

Circulation. In print media, the number of copies sold of a publication at a given time, such as one day of a daily newspaper. It is not the same as the number of readers, as more than one reader generally reads a single copy, particularly with magazines that have a high pass-along readership.

The organization that audits the circulation of daily and weekly newspapers is the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Note that it is plural; the "s" is frequently omitted in major media.

The number of readers or viewers is sometimes referred to as eyeballs. A rating is a percent of the homes (TV households) watching a specific program. One ratings point currently is 1.1 million homes, so a 5 rating is 5.5 million homes. The number of viewers is more than the number of homes, depending on the program. PR people sometimes inadvertently exaggerate the number of listeners or viewers. Cable TV subscribers are potential viewers - the number of subscribers is not to be equated with the actual audience.

Reach and frequency are the total impressions (reach) and how often they are published or broadcast (frequency). I am pleased that integrated marketing communications now is popular. It is essential that PR people learn the language of advertising. For example, DMA (designated market area) is a Nielsen Media Research term for a group of counties in which a TV station obtains the greatest portion of its audience. Marketing pros use the DMA designation to indicate markets in which they are planning ad and PR campaigns.

Return to the first paragraph of this piece. An elevator pitch is a brief description of an individual, company, product, or other entity, so well prepared that it can be given during a short elevator ride. A brite is an attractive article or photo that brightens a page, sometimes in the upper left corner to kick off (a kicker) the page. A phoner is a telephone interview or report on radio or television.

Well, here I am at the end of this Op-Ed, and I haven't stated my number one criticism. Yes, become familiar with media jargon (about 2,000 terms are discussed in my book), but stay away from PR jargon that has become hackneyed. For example, transparency is a buzzword that is becoming a clichŽ. Other overused, pretentious words include integrated, multifaceted, and turnkey.
Richard Weiner is a PR consultant and author of 23 books.

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