You should never use the word “unique” in PR.
However, many PR professionals, who honestly should know better, still cling to the word “unique” — even to the point of fiercely defending its use.
Why is “unique” such a despicable word to put in your PR copy?
If you can reproduce something in a factory, it isn’t really unique
The typical use case is to describe something as unique when it actually isn’t. You might state that the first generation iPhone was a unique product, but it actually wasn’t. A reasonable rule of thumb: If you can produce multiple copies of something in a factory, then it’s not unique.
And even if they had only produced one iPhone ever, it wasn’t exactly the first or last smartphone to ever be produced.
“But the product had unique features!”
A mass-produced product is unique because it has “unique” features, you say? We’re already on a slippery slope of deflating what such a diffuse statement even means.
Does it mean that no-one will be able to copy these features?
Or does it simply mean … “new”?
A fingerprint is unique, a strand of DNA is unique, this URL is unique, a work of art is unique
“Uniqueness” is by definition its own self-realizing feature. What makes something unique is that it’s uniquely unique.
A fingerprint is unique. A strand of DNA (unless you have an identical twin) is unique. A code stamp for a cryptocurrency is unique by design. You, as a singular human being flowing through the cosmological spacetime — is unique.
A work of art is unique, because no matter how many copies you make, there will only be one original. A non-fungible token is unique, because that’s its whole purpose.
This blog post is by no means unique, but it is served to you via a unique URL. It’s nothing special about this particular URL, but it is unique. That’s why the URL works, right?
But your new product or service? Or a specific feature? Please.
Conflating the meaning of the word
At the same time, if you zoom in or out far enough, suddenly everything becomes unique.
My wristwatch is unique because no other watch has the same exact configuration of molecules. No other watch is sitting on my left wrist at this very moment. In that sense, my watch is unique.
Unique this and unique that.
Beyond describing what’s truly unique by design or purpose, the term doesn’t really mean anything. It’s reduced to corporate cringe the very moment you type it into the headline of your press release.
Or worse: Your PR copy is just crap that’s all dancing and all singing.
“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”― Tyler Durden (Chuck Palahniuk), Fight Club
Frankly, trying to make crap dance and sing to stand out is an all too common approach, don’t you think?1
Using “unique” — compensating for something that just isn’t in your PR copy yet
You know how this all works, right?
If you have to point out that something is “modern”, it probably isn’t.
If you have to point out that something is “cool”, it probably isn’t.
If you have to point out that something is “awesome”, it probably isn’t.
If you have to point out that something is unique … it probably isn’t.
“Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.”— Abraham Lincoln
And now we’re getting closer to the actual reason for avoiding to use the word “unique” in your PR material:
It’s not because the term is so easy to misuse.
It’s not because the term has been overused and lost its meaning.
It’s not because it’s a sure sign of corporate cringe.
No, you shouldn’t use the word “unique” in PR because …
… if you actually have something unique on offer, why go wasting that rare PR opportunity by telling everyone? Instead, show them.
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
— Benjamin Franklin