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TODD SMITH'S SPIN CYCLE: 6 troublesome word pairs are bane of PR folks

Todd Smith

Todd Smith

Words are magic, and us PR practitioners ply our craft by building brands that make an impact through communication and strong writing. The Spin Cycle is always grabbing the publicity microphone and amplifying the importance of word choice. It’s the honey that makes brands golden. Here are the top word pairings that drive wordsmiths – and journalists alike – crazy!

1. Affect and effect.

Affect typically is a verb; effect usually is a noun. To keep them straight, think of copy written for Zantax or some other drug. The effects of it are nausea, insomnia, irritability, et cetera.

A person who takes a drug like Benadryl for seasonal allergies is affected by it; he or she can hardly stay awake during the day and dozes off during the afternoon meeting.

2. Complementary and complimentary.

Complementary means to “add to, complete, or reinforce” something else. Transmedia storytelling and cross-channel marketing use complementary content to create the full experience.

Complimentary is in relation to flattery or something given away for free as in the case of the drinks and hors d’oeuvres to be served at your invitation-only event.]

3. Averse and adverse.

If you wrote about the polar vortex a few months ago, you should have used adverse to describe it because the word means something opposed to a subject. For example, you may have been stranded in Houston because of adverse weather conditions.

If you mean that the subject is opposed to something, the correct word is averse: Noah is averse to any criticism about his artwork.

4. Conscience and conscious.

To have a conscience is to have a sense of right and wrong. To be conscious is to be awake or aware.

5. Every day and everyday.

Everyday is an adjective meaning “used daily” or “common.” Every day is a noun (day) modified by every. Levi’s actually used the wrong word when describing one of its lines of jeans; they were marketed as every day jeans even though the intention was that the jeans were perfect for daily wear. Every day is what happens when you’re in competition with your Fitbit. Because of it, you take a walk at lunchtime every day.

6. Principal and principle.

This one’s tricky because principal has three meanings: it can be an adjective meaning “foremost” or “major”; a noun meaning “chief official”; or, in finance, a noun meaning “capital sum.” A principle, in contrast, is a noun only, and it means “rule” or “axiom.”

If you’re talking about your business’s mission and goals, you’re talking about its principles. If you’re denoting which of those principles are the most important, you’re speaking of principal principles, which is almost as difficult to say as, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” You might want to avoid using both words at the same time.

The 10 Most Influential Videos of YouTube’s First 10 Years

Valentine’s Day 2015 was a big day in another way. Call it video love. One decade ago, YouTube was born. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, three former employees of PayPal, registered a new company devised as a place for kids, adults, and random dudes to watch stuff on the Internet.

User-generated media has been the bane of journalism’s existence for most of those 10 years because now – thanks to GoPro, Microsoft, and Apple – everyone is a reporter. Ten years ago no one used the word “influencer,” but today they interview the President of the United States.

That said, here are PR Newser’s rankings of the Top 10 Most Influential (not “most viewed,” because that would be a bunch of pop music) YouTube videos of all time.

1. Me at the Zoo.

YouTube was a “Blank Space” for about two months until Karim uploaded this video of him at the zoo. 17.5 million views later, YouTube history has been written – and viewed – ever since. This started it all. That’s influence. Check it out.

2. Gangnam Style.

We know. We get bad tastes in our mouths thinking about it too, but the first video to reach 1 billion views (and now, past 2.2 billion) makes PSY YouTube’s biggest winner to date.

3. Justin Bieber: The Early Years. 

Why is Captain Douchenozzle himself so “influential”? Because journalists writing pieces on the new kid who made all the 12-year-olds swoon (almost certainly) created the phrase “Check out his work on YouTube!”

4. Charlie Bit My Finger — Again.

Today, the Interweb is full of adorable animals, colorful sunsets, and I Can Has Cheezburgers. This was the first: back in 2007, some British father/early adopter decided to share his child-rearing exploits with the world.

The fact that we are all still watching 800 million views later demonstrates the power of “social” media to turn such run-of-the-mill moments into cultural touchstones.

5.  Leave Britney Alone! 

For some reason, we’d all like to believe that we are starring in our own movie and that everyone else in the world cares what we think and say.

One troubled soul decided that he was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take any more. In the process, he convinced millions around the world that they could earn attention, celebrity status, and even money by sharing things that others might call best left alone – like Britney herself.

6. Don’t Tase Me, Bro! 

In 1992, one man’s shaky-hand cell phone footage of Rodney King changed the world.

In 2007, University of Florida student Andrew Meyer changed the world in a different way as he “predicted” the wave of embarrassing/controversial police footage that now populates so much of our Internet.

In many cases, that footage led to serious conversations.

7. LonelyGirl15.

YouTube “stars” take note: LonelyGirl15 was nothing more than a vlog series featuring a 16-year-old girl finding her way through life. Of course, the problem was that “Bree” was actually a struggling actress “auditioning” for a gig.

Jessica Rose never became a huge star, but she did provide a template for others and inspire a 2006 episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

8. KONY 2012.

This is the video that established “slacktivism.”

YouTube can be an agent of change, but it took a while for people to figure that out, and KONY 2012 allowed armchair activists to unite under one banner for the first time.

Turns out that signing a petition and watching a video won’t stop a vicious Ugandan overlord – but at least this campaign got us moving in a positive direction.

9. I’m Coming Out.

At times, YouTube provides glimpses into the corners of humanity that make us all stop, look, listen – and share.

In one of those cases, high school senior Kayla Kearney decided the MLK Assembly at Mario Carillo High School was the best time to share a very personal truth.

Memo to PR: this is a great reminder that virality isn’t made; it’s earned, even if its in poor taste.

10. Maru.

So, where did all of these animal videos come from anyway? YouTube can actually tell you: they came from Maru.

In 2008, someone in Japan thought that the cuddly goings-on of someone’s cat would attract an audience.

A billion-plus animal videos later, we can thank Maru and her hollow cardboard toy.

Golden Mic | Leonard Nimoy 

Leonard Nimoy, best known for playing Spock on the television show Star Trek and its movies, left this earth last week, and with his death left a cultural black hole in our collective psyche.

Nimoy became a pop phenomenon. Characterized by an emotionless devotion to the Vulcan ethos of logic, Spock was an inspiration to a generation of fans and became well known to the public at large. Nimoy had a large part in shaping the character into someone who was non-violent (Nimoy developed the Vulcan nerve pinch as an alternative to punching), ethical, intellectual, and compassionate. He was more than an icon. He and his sidekick – William Shatner, Captain Kirk, were brands of a bygone era, who captured a generation and gave flight to creativity and the wonder of the great beyond. For that, Nimoy beams-up a Golden Mic!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.


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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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