July 29, 2010
When looking for new content for a speech on jargon to a tech industry group, my agency conducted research to see how all of the industry “leaders” were providing seamless, end-to-end, next generation, turnkey solutions to whatever niche they served.
Amazingly, the results mirror those from our first survey on the topic in 1999 and five subsequent tracking surveys.
Today, every other release posted on newswires comes from a “leader,” and most of them are selling solutions, rather than specific products or well-defined services. Are companies, their staffs and outside counsel simply practicing copy-cut-and-paste communications — where all releases and marketing materials in a niche sound alike?
Effective public relations builds substantial images and reputations for the long term, which requires clear differentiation, personality and style. It also requires telling stories that present a company, technology, products or service in compelling and exciting ways for multiple audiences.
Think about the great corporate spokespeople. Steve Jobs doesn’t talk about solutions. He creates stories about how new Apple products work and what he thinks users will see and enjoy. When launching the iPad, he didn’t waste time on superlatives. Instead, he connected potential users to the benefits — what the product could do today plus the vision of future applications.
Compare this storytelling approach to news releases and presentations about most new product introductions.
Whether it’s laziness, deadline pressure or mimicking their peers, most technology companies issue releases with no sharp edges. They are packed with words that most major media hate including: solutions, leading, seamless, cutting edge, best-of-breed, robust, end-to-end, first mover, customer-centric, mission critical, turnkey, world class, next generation and unique (unattainable).
Beyond the use of empty buzzwords, most releases offer no validation of their claims of leadership or what problem they will actually solve. A few true leaders did provide market share and revenue data for evidence. Here are quick samples of empty, throwaway claims or vague descriptions:
Is there a solution to this trend without end?
The creative challenge is breaking through the clutter with positioning that can be clearly validated over time with what engineers and scientists call proof of principle. Envision a series of fact-filled, compelling stories that add evidence over time regarding the superiority of your product, service or technology.
As a starting point, here are three tools to help CEOs and others step out of Jargon Land and move toward story-telling prowess:
After poring over the first drafts (writing short meaningful copy is difficult!), set each version aside for 24 hours.
Then read each one aloud to a trusted friend outside the organization. Did he or she laugh? Gag? Say “wow?” Edit one more time, test with outside audiences and fine tune.
When completed, these three compelling pieces can be the starting point for all other creative endeavors — and gain the respect of media, staff, customers and audiences everywhere in the process.
Tom Gable, APR, Fellow PRSA, is founder and CEO of Gable PR. A former financial journalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee, he is author of “The PR Client Service Manual” and a frequent speaker on jargon-free public relations, creativity, strategic reputation management and crisis communications. Email: email@example.com.
Broaden your skill set with access to an extensive library of live and on-demand professional development webinars — one of PRSA's premier member benefits.