I just returned from a marketing communications planning meeting with a team of execs from a UK-based manufacturing company. It was a great meeting about the importance of a strategic approach to PR.
Watch Your Words!
As the discussion turned to topics worthy of announcements and news releases, it became clear that there is a distinct difference between UK and American “business-speak” and other vocabulary.
As an example, one of the company’s execs shared that in the UK, the term “brown bag” has a dramatic difference in definition than in the US. Here in the US, a “brown bag seminar” means a business meeting in which participants bring their own lunch, or “brown bag it” as they view an informative presentation. In the UK, however, the term “brown bag” conjures up visions of a homeless drunk on the side of the road. This is an important distinction when building a press release!
Never Say “Pants”
The term “pants” is also problematical. In the UK,"pants" usually refers to underwear- not trousers. The descriptive term "pants" is also used when referring to something that is of poor quality ("the movie last night was pants").
Business writing is also unique in the UK, where one will see terms like “whilst”; “heretofore”; “henceforth” and other words not often seen in business writing.
For Further Reading
The Project Britain blog on all things British life and culture offers a handy worksheet and vocabulary listing that translates UK and US terms.
PR builds trust and credibility. It is cost-effective way to validate a new product or service to the most people possible. The challenge is to get the word out/generate interest/awareness from unbiased, third party opinion, but to use the appropriate vocabulary!
I married into a UK family, so I understand these issues. I’m just grateful the team reminded me of these particular words. So far, I better remember to stay away from “Brown Bag” and “pants”!