I have been in my new role as PR account executive for six months now, and the time has flown by. Whilst doing some media monitoring the other day I came across yet another recycled phrase that was used in some guise or another in an attempt to be witty.
However, rather than put a wry smile on my face it did the opposite to me. I recoiled in horror as I saw yet another cliched phrase modified to fit and fortify a flagging press release. I’m sure it has done the same to you at some stage, perhaps an eye roll or a groan as you see one of these chestnuts nestled in the text your reading.
Starting out in PR is never easy as you navigate putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboards as the case may be. Now I’m all for using humour, familiar phrases or any other device to engage your reader, but I have noticed a few that you really should avoid like the plague.
So here are my top five phrases to avoid…
A passion for fashion
When I first cast eyes on this phrase I was at the London College of Fashion, learning from a former PR pro who had graced such wonders as Vogue, Mulberry and Woolford. I adored her as she was direct, refreshing and intriguing, she was my very first PR mentor. As soon as she mentioned her hatred for this phrase I began to see it everywhere. If you work in fashion or beauty, as I have done in the past, you will know this phrase is virtually unavoidable from the humble CV to editorial, this little cracker is everywhere.
I can tell you exactly the first time heard this phrase. It was two years ago and until then I lived in blissful ignorance. My friend and I had been looking at Linked In profiles in order to improve our own and she pointed it out. She said that people often described her as a ‘culture vulture’ and she didn’t like it, not one little bit. Nor did I. Just because you are interested in life outside your own sphere does not mean you are a ready to swoop in and devour all other cultures. Everyone has interests, most people like to travel, why do we have to pigeon hole people with such a vulgar term?
To be or not to be…
Guilty! Yes I am, I have used this phrase for my own writing, when I was ten years old in my English class. I thought I was so clever, but like most ‘original thought’ it unfortunately lacked originality. This has been done, far and wide, high and low and it is recognisable but it’s been done. Let the mighty bard rest this phrase so we can appreciate it in his plays in the future.
Bond, James Bond
Now before I lose you on this one, let’s set the record straight, I love the Bond films. I grew up curled up on the sofa, with my Grandad, eating Terry’s chocolate orange segments whilst watching the latest instalments of the series getting scared that if I ate too much of the chocolate I too would have a mouth full of gold teeth. These are some of my fondest memories. So I say this with a caveat, don’t make a cliched Bond reference, unless you are doing the PR for a Bond film or genuinely have some connection to it. Otherwise, you are wrecking a British institution.
YOLO or You Only Live Once
Often used by millenials, yummy mummys and those in mid-life crisis. So in essence, everyone. This applies to all of us. I am a millennial (people born late 80’s/90’s and formative teenage years in the 90’s/00’s) and I don’t believe anyone needs an excuse to trying something new or an excuse to do something bold. I hate this phrase, this for me is the worst because it isn’t just a phrase it can be used as an excuse, a manipulation. When I’m out I often overhear comments like ‘Should I buy these shoes which mean I can’t pay the rent? Oh well, you only live once! Hello new shoes!’. YOLO isn’t an excuse to be irresponsible or to do bad things. I’ve heard YOLO used as an excuse for affairs, silly purchases and for other socially unacceptable things. Attaching a carefree phrase doesn’t make the action any better.On a lighter note, I’ve also heard it used in far less serious context and I’m sure many will call me out and say that it’s just a bit of fun. But, I still can’t help but loathe it. Live your life the way you want to, you don’t need an excuse to seize the moment, or watch back to back episodes of Game of Thrones, in your PJ’s whilst eating Ben and Jerry’s straight out of the tub.
My best advice is to try and be original. I know this is hard when you are battling deadlines, but keep it simple if all else evades you.
These are my top five, what phrases would you advise to avoid?
I can’t believe it has been two weeks since I got my results. I now have a Masters (with Merit!) in Public Relations. I am still in shock but it’s finally beginning to process and I am bursting with pride. Holding down a full time job and a degree though definitely took its toll and it was time for a break. Beautiful Barcelona has so much to offer. If you like architecture, art and epic amounts of sea food then it’s the place for you. Although don’t forget your walking shoes, we covered over 40 miles in four days! However, I am now back and ready to start my hunt for employment.
Many of you will be in the same place, whether you have just graduated, are looking for your next stepping stone or a new career altogether. It can be pretty daunting. There are so many places to look that knowing where to start is half the battle. It’s been a while since I had to properly look and as always things have evolved. But, the old faithful’s are still there.
The Linked In job section has vastly improved making it easier to actually use the network of connections you have built up and apply for jobs directly. You also see a lot by being part of relevant industry groups, monitoring the main news wall and setting up bespoke job searches. Fantastic.
The world of recruiters has expanded, specialised and now contact you via Linked In. Being actively sought out makes the job hunt that bit easier as they have already matched your skills to roles they have in mind.
It is now much easier to be direct. Contacting the company directly in person or by phone, via their website, snail mail or social media have all become easier. For the PR’s reading this remember to be creative in your approach. It’s a creative industry! Beat the monotony and stick it to the black and white cookie cutter CV if you dare! Just look at one of my previous blogs to see the extent applicant’s are now going to, it may alter your perspective of what a CV should look like.
Asking for advice and feedback is the quickest way to improve gas it’s the most appropriate for the industry you want to go in to. So many people having been giving me advice on my CV and covering letter and all of it is different. They may not be wrong but they can conflict. Remember it’s subjective and everyone’s opinions are different.
Now I’m no expert, but I’ve done my fair share of job hunting, asking professionals, consulting CV and covering letter experts and I have also hired my own team once many moons ago. Although I may not be able to comment on some of the finer details here are six basic golden rules to get you started:
Get expert advice from CV professionals or people in your industry. Your CV and covering letter should constantly be under review. (But remember it’s subjective- so if you’re not feeling it ask for a second opinion or a third!)
Scrap the unsupported statements. Back everything you say up. It’s no good saying you’re a team player without some sort of example to support it. I mean you could write anything then…I’m a space cowboy with four Oscars who majored in graphic design, law and quantum physics whilst simultaneously running for Prime Minister. Err…like I said use examples of your work or experience to back up your claims. What? Where? When? How?
How are you going to help the business? Remember, this is not really about you. This about the company and finding someone who is going to earn them lots of money or save them lots of money. Unfortunately in our crazy capitalist society it really is all about the money, money, money!
Proof read your CV and covering letter. If the language is not your first, or your grammar isn’t the best, get it checked.
Have a tidy digital footprint –no employer wants to see your drinking escapades, your pet cat fluffy or your pouting/gym selfies. Google yourself, what can you find? Be thorough!
Keep it concise and relevant because their time is valuable (as is yours!). Your CV should be two A4 pages maximum. Covering letter should be a couple of paragraphs, maximum one A4 page. Adopt the American philosophy – time is money!
I’m looking for CV and covering letter advice for the PR industry. If you are in a position to give advice about the specifics of PR CV’s and covering letters and want to share your knowledge then please do. It would also be interesting to hear how other people have got their jobs, and any tips or tricks to landing that dream role. If you have any links, advice or experience then I’d love to hear from you – get in touch via the comments box below.