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How to achieve cut-through with plain English PR

James Barnes 09-Oct-2019 15:29:30
Cutting through with plain English PR

Have you had an idea shower today? Or perhaps you’ve tried to solutionise by taking a helicopter view of the situation?

Or maybe you’re wondering what on Earth any of that actually means?

Jargon, buzzwords, slang – whatever you want to call it – it’s everywhere and it often makes readers sigh with despair at having to work out exactly what an article is trying to say.

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In tech PR, the problem grows as every new product, service or development is given a snazzy name or acronym to make it stand out. But it can sometimes feel like the gap between language used in the tech world and language used in the real world is growing every day.

While it may be natural for us to use acronyms and shorthand for issues we deal with on a daily basis, using lots of specialised jargon isn’t the best way to get your point across. In fact, it’s likely to turn a lot of readers off.

Here’s what we can do about it.

Taking the simple route

Viewing the majority of our content online and on-screen has changed reading behaviour, and in many ways the same rules apply with PR:

  • Like the majority of web users, journalists will scan content first rather than read everything.
  • Reading from a screen takes longer than reading from paper.
  • Every article or press release has to compete with many others for the reader’s attention.
  • People don’t have the time to work hard just to understand an article.

The good news is that the solution is a simple one - literally! If you use simple words to say what you mean, your audience will be more likely to understand and engage with your content. This is paramount for your PR Strategy to be a success!

You should also consider your audience carefully and use words that are appropriate to them. It may help to imagine you are having a conversation with the reader (who is not necessarily an expert in your field) as we often pick simple words when we are speaking versus writing.

Read more about the power of plain English

Benefits vs features

Jargon is defined as “special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.”

But it often goes deeper than just the choice of word.

Using simple words to get a point across is one thing, but it can also be a good idea to think about whether the point you want to get across is the best one to connect with your audience.

This often comes down to a battle between features and benefits. A choice between factual statements about what a product or service comprises of, versus explaining why your product or service is valuable or newsworthy.

Benefits are results. They often answer the question that all readers have when they begin to read about a new product or service: “What’s in it for me?”

What’s more they also provide solutions to the pain points your target audience – or a journalist’s target audience – may have experienced or identified.

If you can answer this question using the techniques mentioned above, then you’re already taking steps towards creating content that is easier to digest. When readers take more notice of your content they’re more likely to engage with it and remember your key messages.

Knowing your audience

In some cases, you may deem it appropriate to use terms that are well-known in tech circles and have begun to make a mark on the general public. But you should still include some context or, in the case of acronyms, write out the words in full the first time you use them, for example:

  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Near Field Communication (NFC)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS).

When you’re preparing a press release, writing an opinion piece or offering comment on a news story, you should consider the journalist(s) you’re approaching, but you should also bear their audience in mind as well.

If a reporter is having a tough time understanding you, then there’s little chance they will be able to explain why you’re important to their own readers. And that often means your work will end up in the trash folder, and future releases and comment may not be given consideration.

Using simple language and being clear and concise may not sound like the most exciting way to build content. But if you use these techniques alongside explaining the benefits of your product or service, you will often find interesting avenues to explore that can relate to the latest issues and trends.

Adding these simple tips to your PR strategy can get results.

If you can capitalise on a hot topic then simple comment can open a goldmine, establishing your business or spokesperson as a leading voice on key issues in your sector.

We’ve seen plenty of examples of where a comment on the bigger picture opens up further opportunities to gain coverage. Simplicity shouldn’t be underestimated, so save the jargon for a conversation with your colleague rather than the media, or your target audience.

Read our guide on how to build a PR strategy and increasing your ROI through PR