Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid: Top Journalists Weigh in on Words to NEVER Use When Positioning Your Company

One of the biggest mistakes startups (and entrenched companies) make is overstating their supposed market positioning and value proposition.  I have seen this for years.  A company has created a new product or service, and they are certain it’s going to “revolutionize” the world.  But therein lies the problem. Calling your business revolutionary is fraught with hyperbole. Unless you are deposing Kim Jong-un and turning North Korea into a thriving democracy, lose the revolutionary reference.

Your company most likely has value and a rightful place within your respective industry. And there are very powerful and compelling ways to position your company’s product or service so it grabs attention and ultimately drives sales.  However, tread knowingly. Do not get caught up in startup hysteria, clichés and embellishment when introducing your new product or service to the world.

At my firm, JCUTLER media group, we advise our clients on how to best position their business in a way that not only resonates with their key stakeholders, but also creates enduring value.  We do this by delving deep into what makes their brand believable and singular.  We do this in a powerful and convincing way, but we also are sure to temper the superlatives.  As part of this, we sometimes have to push back on a client’s preconceived brand perception, and help them take an objective look to ensure we are air tight and delivering from a substantive point of view.

We work with media daily.  One thing I have learned over my 20+ years in PR is how to effectively connect with these gatekeepers in a compelling and unique manner.  I have also learned how not to overstate our clients’ businesses.  Nothing falls more flat than a company that is so caught up in their internal world that they lose sight of the competitive external environment. That’s not to say that there aren’t extraordinary entrepreneurs developing products worthy of the “fundamentally transforming” moniker. But how you position those offerings is what will set your business apart. And if you hype too much, without substantive pillars to support that, you are doomed.

We recently asked two-dozen journalists across some of the nation’s most prominent media outlets about their experiences receiving pitches about a company or product. The below represents the most common, overused and inappropriate terms companies and their misguided PR reps have used when positioning themselves to the media.

  • “the Uber of…” 
  • “game-changing"  
  • “disruptive” 
  • “revolutionary” 
  • “cutting-edge” 
  • “…an enormous opportunity”

My advice: take the time to delve deeply into your business and mine what’s truly ownable. When you do that, your positioning will fall in place and market visibility will follow.  It’s also a good idea to find a strategic PR partner that knows what success looks like, and the path necessary to get there.  Let them do the hard work and help position you for maximum success.


Jonathan Cutler, Agency Principal, JCMG