How Not to Annoy Your Audience
4 minutes

How Not to Annoy Your Audience

with Susan Rose, Senior Director of Insights and Content for GovExec

June 26, 2024

Imagine you’ve come across a thought leadership asset from a competitor and learn they have dynamic solutions that leverage emerging technologies to create synergy in a market-leading, next-gen framework.

Are you rolling your eyes yet? So is the rest of the audience.

The B2G community loves its buzzwords. We use them so often that we forget to consider whether the government buyer finds them appealing. While we can’t eliminate jargon entirely (I've been trying to ditch "paradigm shift" for 20 years), we can avoid the words our research shows are most annoying. Here are the top offenders from Market Connections 2024 M4PS Content Marketing Review:

The most annoying buzzwords according to federal government workers.

Collaboration: Genuine Partnership?

When everyone claims to be in the business of “collaboration,” it starts to sound less like a promise and more like a threat. Are you genuinely working together or just using the word because it sounds good? Instead, explain how you genuinely partner with others to achieve shared goals. Real collaboration needs action, not a buzzword.

Synergy: The Unicorn of Business Speak

“Synergy” is meant to describe a magical outcome where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In reality, it often means, “We hope this works out.” Instead of using this elusive term, talk about your partnership's specific benefits and outcomes. Details are more impressive than mythical beasts.

Out of the Box: In the Trash

We’ve all been urged to think “out of the box,” but if you have to say it, are you really doing it? If your ideas are truly creative and innovative, they’ll stand out on their own. Plus, isn’t the whole point of thinking out of the box to avoid clichés?

Innovative and Cutting Edge: The Redundancy Duo

“Innovative” and “cutting edge” are often used interchangeably and excessively, to the point where they’ve lost meaning.  Instead, showcase your actual innovations. Describe what makes your approach different and valuable without relying on these tired descriptors.

The most annoying buzzwords according to state and local government workers.

Circle Back: A Promise to Forget

“We’ll circle back to this” often translates to, “I have no idea right now.” Instead of making vague promises, set specific times for follow-ups. Your clients will appreciate the clarity and commitment.

Digital Transformation and Emerging Technologies: Buzzwords Gone Wild

“Digital transformation” and “emerging technologies” are hot topics but can become buzzwords if overused. Be specific about what these terms mean for your client. Are you implementing new software or streamlining processes? The more detail you provide, the less annoying your message will be.

Best in Class and Market Leader: Show, Don’t Tell

Claiming to be “best in class” or a “market leader” without backing it up is like declaring yourself the coolest person in the room. Instead, provide evidence and testimonials that speak for themselves.

Perfect Solutions: The Impossibility Standard

Nobody believes in “perfect solutions” because, let’s face it, they don’t exist. Focus on realistic, achievable outcomes and how you plan to address challenges. Honesty is far more compelling than empty perfection.

Dynamic and Proactive: The Overused Adjectives

“Dynamic” and “proactive” sound great, but they’re often used so generically that they lose their impact. Instead of relying on these overworked words, demonstrate your dynamism and proactivity through actions and case studies.

Value Add: The Tautology

Saying something adds value is like saying water is wet. Of course it adds value—otherwise, why are we talking about it? Describe the specific value and benefits your clients will receive.

Phew. We made it through the most annoying buzzwords (many more were in the study).

Avoiding these overused phrases in B2G content requires creativity and honesty, but we can do it. By focusing on clear, specific language and backing up claims with objective evidence, your audience will be more engaged and open to hearing what you have to say.

About the Marketing for the Public Sector (M4PS) Content Marketing Review

Content marketing is at the heart of B2G sales. Our content marketing plans and actions share information with the public sector, influence the buying process, and drive quality leads. We started the M4PS content marketing review a decade ago to help identify best practices for our clients.

Over the years, this research has helped answer:

  • What tactics will provide the best return for your company?
  • Where do you need to focus your attention over the next quarter or year?
  • What does your audience need and want from you?

M4PS offers an overview of what is working now to ensure you are reaching public sector decision-makers. We hope the data in this report helps your team create a compelling and effective content marketing strategy for the coming year.

For access to the findings of the M4PS report and ways to integrate the data into your strategy, contact

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