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Why you should never use the word “unique” in PR

Don't tell the world about your uniqueness — show them.

You should never use the word “unique” in PR.

Marketing- and PR jargon might not be the worst thing in the world — but, at least as far as I’m concerned — it’s up there. Corporate platitudes = corporate cringe.

However, many 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?

The typical use case is to describe something as unique when it actually isn’t. Some say that the first iPhone was a unique product, but I know for a fact that it wasn’t. A good 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 in circulation.

“But the product had unique features!”

So a mass-produced product is unique because it has “unique” features? We’re already on a slippery slope of deflating what that even means.

Does it mean that no-one will be able to copy these features?
Or does it simply mean … “new”?

“Uniqueness” is be 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.

This blog post, even, is served to you via a unique URL. It’s nothing special about this URL per se, but it is unique. That’s why the URL works, right?

But your new product or service? Really?

At the same time, if you zoom in or out far enough, it goes the other way and 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. Okay, so?

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.

And this is exactly what brands are doing.1

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.

As follows:

If you have to point out that something is unique … it probably isn’t.

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.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer.

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  1. It’s somewhat ironic that the term “unique” is so widely used (and misused).
Avatar of Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.org/
Jerry Silfwer aka Doctor Spin is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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