Navigating PR Jargon

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I knew from the moment that I applied for college what I wanted to major in — journalism. I wrote for my high school paper and eventually became editor. With that came responsibility, extra work and terms to learn. Copy, layout, leads and deadlines were all part of my vocabulary. Then, I came to college and realized that traditional journalism wasn’t the path I wanted to pursue. I found choosing to major in public relations was the right fit for me. The fast pace, the endless opportunities and the daily challenges all drew me in and kept me interested.

However, as a freshman who used to print journalism, I soon learned that majoring in public relations meant that there were some new words I needed to add to my vocabulary. I needed to pick up on industry “jargon” to stay ahead in my classes, networking and PRSSA. There are so many different directions you can go with a degree in public relations, which is both exciting and terrifying. The terrifying part is that with each unique job opportunity, there comes multiple new words that need to be added to your vocabulary. I have learned how to use a three-step process to navigate the terrifying world that is PR jargon.

Here’s what I do:


Your teachers are right; research is the key to everything; research should always be your first step. Before you start a new class, go to a PRSSA conference or apply for an internship/job, you should always do your research. A lot of times people stop once they learn what the overview is but the key is to dive deeper. If a company focuses heavily on social media, then you should know commonly used jargon for that field like: brand influencers, optimization, B2C marketing and so on. However, there may be another social media company you apply for that uses different jargon. That is why diving deeper into your research is important.

Ask questions.

As an introvert, I know first-hand how scary it can be to ask questions. Even though we are new in the public relations field, we don’t want to come off that way. But, asking questions isn’t a weakness. One company, teacher or colleague can use a term completely different than another. It is so much better to ask for clarification than to get told you’ve been doing something completely wrong. We can never know too much in this ever-changing field. Asking questions now will help you out later down the road by making you more knowledgeable.

Know common jargon.

By the time you are a junior in college, you should have a nicely sized vocabulary of PR jargon. One day you’ll be listening to someone speak and you will realize that you understand what he or she is talking about. That causes a snowball effect; if you know what they are talking about, you might be able to contribute some of your own thoughts.

Erin Hildreth is a senior at Kansas State University studying journalism and mass communications with an emphasis in public relations, and gerontology with a concentration in long-term care administration. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.

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