Have you noticed how complex and unnecessarily shrouded the jargon can be whenever we look at some communication materials from the tech industry, especially those in the enterprise arena?
Having stood on all three sides of the equation, first as a head of marketing in a technology firm, then as a print and broadcast journalist, as well as a public relations practitioner, I have seen the tussle of words from all three sides, and there are reasons from all sides.
From a technology company, there is often a stream of technical jargon trickling down from the research and development department, and especially in the enterprise technology arena, the marketing team may not understand the technology enough to translate the jargon down to comprehensible language for everyone. In the end, the marketing team simply copies the jargon into news releases, brochures, online copy, and social networks, leaving the media and the public to try to decipher just what the company is trying to say.
The public relations practitioner is often in the same shoes as the marketing team of the client company, without sufficient knowledge of the intricate technical details of the technology product as well. Even with the best intentions, the public relations practitioner may be further prevented from modifying the trade language by the client company, sometimes due to legal, or other reasons. And so, the trade copy that flows from the technical department of the client company flows through the marketing team to the public relations agency unchanged, mostly, except with some superfluous "window dressing" which does not help clarify the language, nor help to communicate the message.
The journalist is the recipient of the communication pieces from either the marketing team of the technology company, or from the public relations representative on behalf of the technology company. The journalist has every obligation to translate jargon down to digestible and comprehensible language for the readers of the media, or to be presented as a script for the broadcast presenters. And yet, having received some jargon-filled trade copy from the public relations or the marketing people of the technology company, and facing a typical time crunch at a media company, the journalist is confronted with two choices, release the copy with all the incomprehensible jargon and hope that no one out there cares, or reject the copy and bin it. Either way, the ultimate intended beneficiaries of that piece of information, the readers or the audience, gain nothing.
I have dissected enterprise technology products as a marketer, as a technology, as an external publicist, and as a journalist and editor. I can dare say every bit of technology so far, can be explained in a simple fashion, as long as we spend enough time to figure it out.
Perhaps, internal marketers have to spend more time with the technical teams, to figure out how best to communicate plainly the products to the public. If the marketers face obstruction from the technical peers, perhaps they have to seek the unifying help from the top leaders. After all, every one in the same company has an obligation to work together to meet corporate goals, and practically speaking, any obstruction should be seen as poor work ethic and should be chastised.
Next, having spent enough time to understand what the product is and what it does, the marketers and the technical people can attempt to clarify the language together. And once that is done, it will also be much easier to talk to the public relations folks to get communication materials out to the media and other public stakeholders, in a language everyone can understand and appreciate.
I would suggest that all these can be made possible. It just requires everyone within the company and the public relations agencies to agree that clear and simple communication is the best way to build brands.
After all, if nobody understands what you sell or what you do, you are not going to grow.