Comms Speak

Often when students join the comms industry as interns or graduates, terms and phrases are bandied around that often go straight over your head. 
While not as jargonistic as some industries, there are still a few curly ones around that can make things confusing!

Comms Speak is the section of PRINKS dedicated to answering those questions and clearing up the confusion.  

We will regularly post examples and explanations here though if you have a specific enquiry you can email us and we will post a response on the page. 

Chances are if you’re not sure, others aren’t either so please share your questions!  


 What does that mean?    


 above the fold: any area of a web page that is viewable without the viewer having to use the vertical scroll bar. Ad space in this area is usually more expensive since it is more likely to be viewed by the visitor.    

anchor: a person who presents a news bulletin from a television studio, usually on a regular basis.    


broadsheet: a large format newspaper, usually measuring at least 56 cm long – the newspapers which are a pain to read on the bus or train, you’re Sydney Morning Herald for example! These newspapers are known for their more serious, less sensational style of journalism. Compare with tabloid.    

byline: the writer’s name – their moment of glory! – printed at the beginning or end of an article.    


chief of staff: A senior journalist in a newsroom who assigns stories to reporters and organises and monitors how they do their work. Often second-in-command to a news editor.    

clippings: also known as clips or cuttings – ask anyone in PR and they will tell you how much fun this task can be! Clippings refer to saved copies of published articles, often kept in a clippings or cuttings library.     

cookies:  not a delicious treat but rather a process by which a small file is sent from a web server to the local user’s computer to store information unique to that browser. Cookies are often used by advertisers to keep track of the number and frequency of advertisements that have been shown to a visitor or by websites to help them determine the number of unique visitors.     

Corporate Social/Environmental Responsibility (CSR): A hot topic in any large company – this refers to taking positive action to show an organisation has a responsible attitude to the people and environment it impacts on. The role of PR in CSR is to communicate effectively in order to build corporate accountability and transparency.     

cue sheet: A radio script containing the introduction to a report, details about any inserts, any back announcements and durations of segments.     


double-spread: Two facing pages of a newspaper or magazine across which stories, pictures, adverts and other components are spread as if they were one page.     


embargo: a warning to the media not to publish a news item until the date specified on the release. PR and media folk alike will be well aware of this one!     

exclusive: popularly called a ‘scoop’, an exclusive is the offering and running of an important or significant story which no other news outlet has.     


Famil (media familiarisation):  An event, often held in a distant location, where organisations invite media so they can experience that organisation’s product.  E.g.  ‘The resort organised a famil which allowed them to show off their new day spa to key trade journalists.’     

freelance journalist (freelancer): Usually a reporter or editor not formally employed by any media organisation. Freelancers instead work on several projects under contract or are paid individual amounts for their published works. See also lineage.     


grab: Not a way to get someone’s attention! A grab can also refer to a short piece of recorded sound, usually taken from a longer interview and used in a news item.     


lead time: the time between the start and the completion of a production process. PR folk need to be aware of media lead times when planning and pitching stories, especially monthly mags who generally have a lead time of up to three months!     


media conference: also called press conference or news conference. This is when reporters are gathered together to question someone in the news, usually taking it in turns to ask questions. Such gatherings are usually organised by an individual or company to deal with all the media in one hit or to promote or launch a new product or service with a bang!     

media kit: (1) A set of materials provided to journalists by an organisation to promote their products or services. This can be as creative as you like, come in all shapes and forms and contain various documents, photographs, charts, schedules and other information the organisation wants journalists to focus on. (2) Information on advertising and other service costs made available by media companies to potential advertisers.     


noddy: yes a cute TV character, however in TV speak, this refers to a brief cut-away shot of a reporter or interviewer listening to an interviewee’s answer, often nodding his or her head. Where there is only a single camera, noddies are usually shot after the interview ends and then edited into the finished piece to break up long slabs of the interviewee.     


popping: you would have seen this on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ but it also refers to those annoying, unwanted small explosive sounds caused by a speaker being too close to a microphone when saying words with strong ‘p’, ‘t’, ‘d’ or ‘b’ sounds.     

PPC Advertising: an acronym for Pay-Per-Click Advertising; a model of online advertising in which advertisers pay only for each click on their ads that directs searchers to a specified landing page on the advertiser’s web site.     

put to bed: journalists probably feel like hitting the pillow once a publication has wrapped up! ‘Put to bed’ refers to when journalists have finished their work on preparing a publication and it is sent to for printing.     


raw: in broadcast journalism, this refers to material before it has been processed, especially edited.     


scrum: a gathering of reporters around a person – similar sometimes to a rugby game! – all competing to ask questions or take photographs.     

social bookmarking: the process of storing and tagging websites and internet resources using online tools. These social bookmarks can then be made public, providing a valuable resource for other internet users.     

spider: not something which people often squeal in fright over – in the digital world, spiders are software programs that automatically follows links on the web. The most common types of spiders are those used by search engines for the purpose of indexing web pages. Many spiders follow banner links thus over counting click throughs.     

square brackets: also called ‘box brackets’. These are used in quotes to denote the words between them have been modified from or added to the original, usually for greater clarity, e.g. The Prime Minister said: ‘We welcome our guests [from Russia] to Australia … .’     

style guide: A document or online set of rules on how language is used in a particular organisation.     


tabloid:  A small, compact format newspaper, usually less than 43 cm long, your Daily Telegraph for example. Also used to describe a newspaper style that uses short, simply-written stories and headlines with lots of pictures to illustrate more sensational content. Compare with broadsheet.     

teaser: not the malt form, but rather a promotion that is intended to arouse interest in a campaign which will soon follow.     

thumbnail: a half-column picture in newspapers or a reduced size picture on a web page which, when clicked on, brings up the full sized picture or illustration.     

trap door: a trap door is a type of banner advertisement that leads to a page that does not easily allow the visitor to return to the previous page the banner was on. Sneaky indeed!     


viral campaign: a campaign which is designed to exploit the potential of the internet to spread messages rapidly. The audience is encouraged to pass a message on using various online and social media platforms.

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