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Cipher Machine- de-coding your clients as a PR agency

Cryptology, the science of coding and decoding messages, doesn’t appear in the mass communications syllabus at universities.

And PR consultancies don’t invest in cryptology equipment like the handy “Lorenz SZ.42 Cipher Machine” pictured above (it’s a beauty).

Yet, how PR professionals on the front lines interpret a certain client phrase can make or break an account.

No need to run out to Office Depot to check out the fall lineup of cryptology machines. As a service to the profession and advancing the client-agency relationship, we’ve captured client phrases that consistently find their way to PR agencies and what they really mean.

1. Client Phrase

“We need to pump some life into the news release.”


 “When did a news release become literature? Put that adjective shaker to work.”

 2. Client Phrase

“How’s the media outreach going for the upcoming announcement?”


 “The CEO pinged the CMO who just pinged me. Give me one journalist we can count on to write a story.”

 3. Client Phrase

“Even though the budget starts out low, you’ll grow with us.”


“I was lucky to finagle these dollars out of the founders who view PR as a cost center.”

 4. Client Phrase

 “That’s not on brand.”


“That idea scares the bejesus out of us.”

5. Client Phrase

“Our CEO doesn’t expect to be on the cover of Fortune.”


 “The CEO expects to be on the cover of Fortune.”

6. Client Phrase

 “It’s natural for a new CMO to evaluate all marketing spends.”


 “I suggest you start preparing for an agency review.”

7. Client Phrase

“Rut roh. You need to be available 24 X 7 starting now!”


“Carl Icahn just tweeted about our company.”

Carl Icahn - PR agency client communication

8. Client Phrase

 “Brad finds staying on message can be a challenge.”


“If you think the media training helped Brad, think again.”

9. Client Phrase

 “Is the article available in the hardcopy?”


“Our senior execs still perceive online coverage as a fleeting fad.”

10. Client Phrase

 “I’m thinking we take a pass on producing name badges for the press conference.”


“Too many ‘no shows’ doesn’t look good for either of us.”

11. Client Phrase

“Let’s try pitching the bloggers in this vertical.”


 “I know there’s no news value, but somehow, some way we need to produce coverage.”

Consider this list as a starting point.

If you have additions, by all means jump in.


  • Frank Strong

    Great post, and quite true. Got me to thinking, I can probably come up with a good one deciphering agency speak. #2 is the best.

    • hoffman

      Sounds good Frank.

      Would love to run your agency speak post as a guest post (open to using our illustrator to create a visual for your favorite).


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