Three reasons communications professionals should stop using the word “blast” By Marisa Pooley, APR

    I am, admittedly, a word nerd. I geek out about a single word’s nuanced ability to shift someone’s mood or completely change the context of a sentence. Each of us has certain words that illicit a strong response every time it touches our ears (I’m looking at you, “moist”).

    For me, that word is “blast.” More specifically, my skin crawls each time I hear the word “blast” in relation to communications. I am on a crusade to convince people—especially communications professionals—to strike that word from our vocabularies for one simple reason: it undermines everything we do.

    1. Good Communications Should Not Be Destructive

    I was curious why “blast” bothered me so much, so I started by researching its definition.
    Per Google (because it delivers definitions faster than Merriam Webster can these days):

    1.a destructive wave of highly compressed air spreading outward from an explosion.
    synonyms: shock wave, pressure wave, bang, crash, crack

    1. blow up or break apart (something solid) with explosives.
      synonyms: blow up, bomb, blow (to pieces), dynamite, explode

    In reading those definitions, I’m struck by the forceful and negative words used—destructive, explosion, crash, blow up.
    These are not words that I want associated with my work. The best communications, and the work that the majority of us strive to create on a daily basis, should inspire, excite and amuse people.
    I got into this line of work because I love writing and I believe in the power of communications to help people live better lives. I believe great content is good for both brands and for consumers. I want to engage my audiences, not obliterate them.

    1. Mass Communication is So 1993

    The context in which I most often hear the word “blast” is when talking about emails. Forget four-letter words, “e-blast” is the dirtiest in my household.
    So, out of curiosity, I looked up the definition:
    Per, the definition of: e-blast:

    (E-mail-BLAST) An email message that is sent out to many recipients. If the volume is huge, and the recipients are random rather than targeted, an e-blast is no different than spam.

    To me, this sounds a lot like the definition of mass communication (besides the spam part), something which social media and new technology has all but killed. And for good reason. People expect increased personalization in their content, they spend about 51 seconds reading email newsletters and we have only eight seconds to capture their attention.

    Because of this rapid shift spurred by technology, communicators have radically changed the ways we reach audiences. We segment and target because we know that people are multifaceted, and that one single message cannot reach everyone in our audience.

    We also know that the shift away from mass communication and the rise of social media happened largely because consumers don’t want brands shouting at them. They want dialogue, and frankly, they are the ones guiding the conversation, not companies.

    When we say we are “blasting” information at our audiences, we’re essentially saying that we ignore them. We are ignoring their interests, needs and the reasons they became fans in the first place, and instead thrusting our own agenda at them.

    If we blast people with our communications, we drop a bomb on them and expect them to either catch it or get out of the way.

    1. Communications Should Be Strategic

    From audience segments we create to the words we choose; good communications professionals use data to reach the right people, cut through the ever-increasing noise and inspire action. Whether it’s a tweet or a website overhaul, we should be guided by strategy.

    Per Google:

    1. a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.

    synonyms: master plan, grand design, game plan, plan of action, plan, policy, proposed action, scheme, blueprint, program, procedure, approach, schedule

    1. the art of planning and directing overall military operations and movements in a war or battle.

    I love the definition of strategy and the words and phrases like plan of action, overall aim, master plan, the art of planning. These illicit a very different reaction in me than those used with “blast.”
    And while both definitions use words associated with a battlefield, strategic communicators use precise and artful planning, while "blasters" use shockwaves and explosives.

    Why Does This Matter?

    Because words matter. And we’re in an unprecedented time when thoughtful and responsible communications are more important than ever before.
    We as communicators need to take that responsibility seriously. And if we call our work “blasts,” we undermine the massive amount of strategy that guides our decisions and suggest that our tactics have not evolved. As a result, it becomes harder to prove our profession's relevance.
    Let’s all pledge to stop saying “blast,” because we know the value of having communications professionals in the strategic war room, and not just on the crisis frontlines.


    By Marisa Pooley, APR

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