Insider Terms

At Allen Media Strategies, we always coach our clients never to use insider terms for their area of expertise when doing media interviews. The goal is to make your message go down easy for the end user. My friend Dave, a long time broadcaster, public speaker and communications expert, has “big words fancy talker” printed on his business card to poke fun at his plainspoken, easy to follow delivery.

And yet… I catch myself falling into the same trap, and using insider PR industry terms when I shouldn’t with our clients, or when doing media interviews myself. What a bonehead.

So, as they like to say back in my hometown in the mountains of West Virginia: “Let’s make sure we’re all singing from the same hymnal…”

Here are some common PR/media terms and what they mean. Thanks to my many media PR colleagues for helping provide contributions to this list. Non-media and PR folks, if you catch me using these terms when I shouldn’t, let me know and I’ll put a quarter in the virtual “PR/media terms swear jar.” I’ll then put those virtual quarters into a virtual slot machine and split the virtual winnings with you. Hallelujah and Amen.

And now… here’s the list:

A “highlights” video of something you want to promote (company, person, event), often used to show broadcast outlets the potential for a story or provide them with footage for the story.

A short description of a product or company, often at the end of a release. Also used to refer to a template used for a press release or media pitch that requires minimal customization.

Briefing doc
A document provided to an executive prior to a media interview that includes background on the interviewer, previous examples of their work and talking points.

Proof of coverage; audio of the radio interview, video of the TV interview, a clipping of the print article, etc.

Documents or PR/marketing materials used for branding (brochures, fact sheets, etc).

Items you are responsible for producing or getting produced. It could be a list of media interviews or coverage you’ve arranged, items you’ve produced like brochures or specialty items, or a report or plan that you’re responsible for.

A story or pitch angle that won’t fade over time and can be pitched or published at any time (as opposed to “breaking” or “calendar” news that is only relevant during a certain period of time).

Although defined as “a publicist or promoter,” it is also sometimes a derogatory reference—often used by journalists—to describe a bad PR executive.

Follow up
Checking in with the media pros you’re actively pitching after your initial contact.

Ground Tour
One on one series of in-studio television or radio interviews, usually in one market.

A PR professional’s derogatory response to “flack,” often used to describe a poor journalist or reporting job.

A catchall term that denotes media coverage on television, radio, print and/or online outlets.

A “corporate” position in which one conducts PR inside a business solely for that business, as opposed to a PR firm/agency which services several clients at once.

The public marketing announcement of a campaign to kick off coordinated media coverage.

Low hanging fruit
Pitching a story to a friendly media pro that isn’t too complicated, but get the message across, who is likely to give you coverage.

Media Training
Coaching a non-media professional on how to conduct themselves with the media; typically for interview preparation.

An in-person interview with one reporter.

Indicating an interview by phone. (And if you’re doing a radio phoner, most stations HATE it when you do them on cell phones; try to use a landline).

Photo Op
Opportunity, as in an opportunity to get media coverage in the form of a photo to be used in a print or online outlets.

Can be a noun or verb. You can write a “pitch” and send it to a media pro to entice coverage, or you can “pitch” a media professional to initiate/gauge interest and hopefully garner a “hit.”

Used by publicists and journalists to refer to a press conference or news announcement for the media.

Publications, as in: “We need to get media coverage in lots of pubs that specialize in (topic).”

Radio Tour
Series of one-on-one radio interviews, usually back to back, to multiple stations, most often done on the phone.

A news announcement (as opposed to a product release)… usually a “press release” or “media release.”

When an interview/article is or has appeared on or in a media outlet.

Satellite Media Tour (SMT)
Series of one-on-one television interviews, usually back to back from one studio to multiple stations, one right after the other, uploaded via satellite.

Materials sent to entice media for possible coverage.

The Wire
Any service that disseminates news – Associated Press, Reuters, PR Newswire, Business Wire, etc.

When a story or pitch topic is generating interest/coverage.

Burke Allen is a proud “Flack” and Director of Fun at Washington, DC-based Allen Media Strategies. In his three decades in the media, he’s sung on stage with Bon Jovi, watched nervously on set as a client was grilled by 20/20, and wrote a book called “Becoming Semi-Famous” that was read by tens of people. His son, also named Burke, is not quite sure what his Dad does for a living, but is certain that it’s not as much fun as playing Minecraft. He’d love to add inside terms he may have missed to the list above; email them to