Clear language?

The great enemy of clear language… (or, why your marketing should use narrative and lose the technobabble) Reply

Today I came across a release on the wire. Here’s its lede:

“The new AXM-75 is a multi-function I/O extension module that adds A/D, D/A, and digital I/O signal processing functions to a FPGA processor board. Acromag’s extension I/O modules plug directly onto their PMC and XMC reconfigurable FPGA cards equipped with an AXM mezzanine connector…”

Whoa. What?

Here in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area with its preponderance of tech companies, I see marketing materials such as this frequently enough: They’re ostensibly written in English but not really in what we might call language. The argument organizations use when they put out such news is that their core audiences will know what this technobabble means. But they forget that if they’re sending out over the wire they’re hoping it will get picked up by journalists and bloggers — not engineers. Journalists, whatever their medium, are looking for a story to tell so they can engage their readers. Has this release, and others like it, helped them do it? Will it speak to them? Did it speak to you?

Even tech PR can be written in plain, understandable English. Better, your marketing can tell you right away what the takeaway is; what the news means to customers and the industry. And best, it can be told in a way that helps people understand the ideas and value that often get hidden behind the jargon. Think about it: If your product or service underscores your company’s creativity or problem solving abilities, wouldn’t you put your news into that context, making it engaging, likable and actionable?

In marketing — whether it’s press releases, web copy, social media posts or video — whoever tells it best can cut through the clutter of people’s lives and really reach them. This doesn’t mean manipulation, or hard sell, or making things up. It means knowing what your value is and being able to convey it in a manner that people (and not only engineers) will be receptive to. And this means narratives, told in accessible language, accompanied by or made up with relevant and interesting images.

This is common sense, but there’s a deeper reason for it.

“The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.” — Donald Calne, neurologist

As much as we’d like to think that we make decisions rationally and logically, it’s really our unconscious mind that drives most purchase decisions, and our unconscious responds to — and remembers — narratives. Those of us also in marketing/advertising pretty much know this already, but PR has been slower to adopt this attitude.

In the end it’s easy and even mindless to put out a release that mirrors exactly what your engineers think you should say. But we as marketing professionals need to generate content that puts news into context and encourages emotion that allows our audiences to relate to our company, product or service. But: Only if you really want to reach humans!

Lynn Esquer/SocialproseLynn Christiansen Esquer is a principal at SocialProse Media. This post was previously published on her personal blog. Email her at lesquer@socialprose.com

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