How to communicate technical information without using jargon
Communications expert Liz Doig reveals her six secrets of plain English branding messages - no jargon guaranteed
A client sent this email to us recently: “My partner says this is first time in 10 years she has understood what I do for a living 🙂 Thank you!”
He’s an incredibly dedicated and enthusiastic man – an expert in his field and, quite likely, a genius. His product has the potential to revolutionise the way large retailers communicate. But he was so involved in his product, so finely attuned to its intricacies and inner workings, that he was struggling to talk about it in simple, compelling terms.
If this sounds all too familiar, our golden rules for communicating about technology might help you to turn your brilliant idea into a hugely profitable, market-defining phenomenon.
1. Get emotional
Technology, by its nature, lives in a rational space. It’s largely a product of logic and reason. But you’re asking people to abandon their current ways of doing things, and to adopt yours. Which is a big, emotional ask. So, while the technical details might be necessary, they can’t be the headline act. Don’t just list out your tech spec. Think about how your technology will make people feel better too. This is why car manufacturers hang their sales strategies on communications like: “Zoom zoom,” and, “The ride of your life.”
2. What you call it is important
You probably have a name for your product – one you’ve used throughout the conception, design and build process. Let’s say it’s the Deep Molecular Purification System, which you and your team have probably shortened to DMPS. DMPS is not a name that’s going to set most people’s world on fire. Instead, use words that will evoke associations. Names like Purest or Claria will be more likely to make audiences want to hear more.
3. Hide the wiring
When people buy an iPhone, they don’t care what the circuitry looks like or how it works – they’re just excited to find out what they can do with it. Your communications should be like the shiny casing that hides the wiring. Certainly let it give the impression that it contains technological genius. But concentrate on what your product or service does, rather than how it works. Electrical retailers draw audiences to HD TVs by saying: “Pictures so clear, you’ll feel like you’re a part of the action”. “More individual units of digital data per square inch,” doesn’t quite do the same job.
4. Keep it simple
Some of your readers will be quite happy to stay at the emotional level. For those who want to know exactly how the deep molecular purification system works, keep it simple. Remember you’re writing for a busy commercial audience, not a scientific community. Keep your information to a few paragraphs, broken up with clear sub-headings. Your sentences should contain no more than 20 words. And your approach to vocabulary should be like Churchill’s or Orwell’s – using the shortest words wherever possible.
5. Stay positive
Many entrepreneurs and inventors are driven to create new ways of doing things because they became frustrated with the way things were done before. And so many people define their product by what it’s not. But this approach will confuse and frustrate your target audiences pretty quickly. It’s so important to stay positive. “It creates the purest water you have ever have tasted,” is a statement that has your reader hooked. “It’s not like a filter. They were never what they were cracked up to be anyway,” is an opener that will turn your reader off.
6. Get professional help
If you struggle with words, get help from someone who does it for a living. It will free you up to do the things you’re really good at. And your communications could be all that’s standing in the way of your product becoming a household name.
Liz Doig is a director at Wordtree, the brand language specialists, which runs ‘tone of voice’ residential courses for small businesses.