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Communication "Jargonitions" Guide

The irony with communication professionals is that we tend to speak in our own jargon. We admit it, okay! The motivation for using such language may be based on a need to impress clients with some degree of intellect, or a need to impress each other to affirm professionalism among colleagues, or as an innocent attempt to illustrate communication concepts in creative ways. Regardless of the reason, it's time to shed light on these "Jargonitions" with a handy reference guide. Now clients, colleagues and friends (many one in the same) no longer have to feign understanding during polite conversation.

Just as a slight caveat, many of the terms below are either commonly misused or remain open to interpretation. After all, managing communication will always be one part science and two parts art. And art is, by its very nature, subjective. To cover our posterior, there are select footnotes with attribution. So, for what it's worth, here is how Z Communication applies the following Jargonitions. We hope it lends some perspective along with a little fun.


Brand Image - How a brand is truly perceived among constituents.

Brand Identity - The aspiration for how an entity would like its brand(s) to be perceived. An identity should help establish a relationship between the brand and the customer by generating a value proposition involving functional, emotional or self-expressive benefits. An identity can consist of 12 dimensions organized around four perspectives - the brand-as-product (product scope, product attributes, quality/value, uses, users, country of origin), brand-as-organization (organizational attributes, local versus global), brand-as-person (brand personality, brand-customer relationships), and brand-as-symbol (visual imagery/metaphors and brand heritage).

Value Proposition - The statement of functional, emotional, and self-expressive benefits delivered by the brand that provide value to the customer. An effective value proposition should lead to a brand-customer relationship and drive purchase decisions.

Brand Position - That part of the brand identity and value proposition that is to be actively communicated to the target audience and that demonstrates an advantage over competing brands.

Brand Personality - A set of human characteristics associated with a brand, such as gender, age, socioeconomic class as well as classic human personality traits such as warmth, concern and sentimentality.

User Imagery - A set of human characteristics associated with the typical brand consumer.

Brand Equity - A set of assets (and liabilities) linked to a brand's name and symbol that adds to (or subtracts from) the value provided by a product or service to a firm and/or that firm's customers. The major asset categories are: brand name awareness, brand loyalty, perceived quality, and brand associations.


Public Relations - 1) The managed process of communication between one group and another2; 2) Public Relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other3; 3) Responsible, planned, two-way communication on behalf of or by an individual, group or organization designed to generate good will, shape reputation and/or to elicit a behavioral change or response; 4) The management of public perception; 5) the planned effort to influence opinion through good character and responsible performance, based upon mutually satisfactory two-way communication4.

Publicity - 1) Information about a client, product or service, which appears as news in any medium - print, broadcast, or electronic5 2) Disseminating planned messages through selected media without payment to further an organization's interests3.

Public Affairs - Effective involvement in public policy, helping an organization adapt to public expectations3. Communication measures may range from grassroots activities to lobbying legislative bodies and regulatory agencies.

Issues Management - Identifying issues of public concern in which an organization is, or should be, concerned3.

Crisis Communication - Contingency planning for the communication response in the event of anticipated crises, and working to prevent crises3.

Social Responsibility - Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the alignment of business operations with social values. CSR consists of integrating the interests of stakeholders - all those affected by a company's conduct - into the company's business policies and actions. CSR focuses on the social, environmental, and financial success of a company - the so-called triple bottom line - with the goal being to positively impact society while achieving business success6.

Relationship Management - A strategic approach toward establishing, developing, and maintaining successful relational exchanges with key constituents. This strategy involves tailoring communication messages by audience to reinforce the desired reputation among each one and employing the communication approaches (channels / mediums) each audience prefers. The purpose of actively managing relationships is to make business objectives more achievable by preventing miscommunication, which can lead to misunderstanding, conflict and lost opportunities, as well as by facilitating purposeful communication, which promotes goodwill, brand loyalty, and company advocacy7.

Reputation - There are two dimensions of reputation as it pertains to a business or person. The first is an overarching judgment of character, how the source is generally held in regard or public esteem, often based on its "good name." The second dimension involves specific traits, such as "being known" for reliability, innovation or service quality. The differentiation among reputation, brand and image is that a company's reputation is rooted in character, whereas its brand reflects commercial attributes. Together, they represent the company's image7.

Credibility - A condition under which an entity, such as a company or person, possesses the perceived, and often earned, quality of believability. Credibility is based on two key components: trustworthiness and expertise. The trustworthiness dimension of credibility captures the perceived goodness or morality of the source. The expertise dimension of credibility captures the perceived knowledge, experience, and competence of the source8. Credibility is the staple of effective communication. If the source is not believed, the message will be lost, and the intended communication will fail. A company can establish and enrich its credibility through ongoing efforts to demonstrate good character and responsible performance7.

Message Alignment - Ensuring that a company's leaders and various spokespersons communicate its strategic message points, which may vary by target audiences, in a seamless and consistent manner. Alignment is critical to effectively execute business strategies, achieve desired brand identity, and prevent miscommunication7.

Triggering - A potent communication strategy that associates societal or naturally occurring events to impress more deeply upon a target audience, often with the intent to elicit a desired response7. One example is leveraging the power of association, such as reminding consumers to change their smoke detector batteries each daylight savings time. Another may be to leverage a life intersection, such as targeting individuals about health issues around the time of their 40th birthday, when they'd be most receptive and inclined to take action. These "triggering events" provide ideal opportunities for marketers to strategically target audiences more effectively9.

Guerilla Marketing - Involves employing unconventional, attention-getting marketing strategies to generate awareness and positive word-of-mouth about a particular company, product, service, event or issue7.

Opinion Leaders - People who are instrumental in influencing other people's attitudes or actions10.

Gatekeeper - An individual who is positioned within a communication network to control the messages flowing through the communication channels10.


Mission or Purpose - The overarching reason that the organization came into existence; a visionary statement that can guide the organization's planning for many years3.

Goals - Usually, a more specific expression of a mission or purpose. Often related to one aspect of a mission or purpose. It is commonly described as the desired outcome of a plan of action3.

Objectives - Specific milestones that measure progress toward achievement of a goal. Objectives must: 1) address the desired result in terms of opinion change and / or behavioral outcome, not in terms of communication output; 2) designate the public or publics among whom the outcome is to occur; 3) specify the expected level of accomplishment; 4) identify the time frame in which those accomplishments are to occur3.

Strategies - A general, well-thought-out tactical plan. Strategies do not indicate specific actions to achieve objectives. There can be multiple strategies for each objective3.

Tactics - The specific activities conducted to implement strategies of a public relations program. Tactics involve the use of selected personnel, time, cost and other organizational resources. Tactics achieve the objectives and, in turn, support the goals that have been set to carry out the mission or purpose of the organization3.

Metrics - Involves defining success with specific goals, setting mutual expectations for reaching such goals, and establishing the resources and methodologies for achieving preferred measurability. These methodologies range from tracking work productivity (output) to relying on benchmark research to monitor desired changes in awareness, opinion, attitudes and behaviors among key target audiences7.

Primary Research - Gathering information that is not already available10.

Secondary Research - Gathering available information10.

Research - The systematic gathering of information for the purpose of describing and understanding situations, and confirming assumptions about publics and public relations consequences4.

Target Audience - The primary group an organization is trying to influence10.


  1. All branding definitions are sourced from David A. Aaker, author of "Building Strong Brands" and "Managing Brand Identity" among a number of other authoritative books on the topic.
  2. Public Relations Consultants Association (London, England)
  3. Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
  4. "Effective Public Relations," Cutlip & Broom
  5. "This is PR," Newsom and Scott
  6. SRI World Group, Inc.
  7. Z Communication, Matthew Zinman, APR
  8. Times Literary Supplement and Stanford-Makovsky Web Credibility Study 2002
  9. Patrick Jackson, Jackson, Jackson & Wagner, Inc.
  10. "Public Relations: The Profession and the Practice," Baskin and Aronoff


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