Seven Considerations for Effective Communication

By: Guest | May 17, 2011 | 

Valerie Merahn Simon serves as a senior vice president at BurrellesLuce and is a regular blogger for BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

The other night, as I read through a certain news release for the fifth time, I began humming a slight variation to an Avril Lavigne song.

Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?
Writing like I know about or care about your jargon
has me frustrated
Brands like this, you
Create stress, make a mess
You confuse and dilute
What you say, please turn it into honesty
Promise me I’ll never gonna hafta translate it

Understand that my plea on behalf of consumers everywhere is not a charitable request.

Customers are more loyal, and even willing to pay more, for brands that offer communications, interactions and experiences that are easy to understand and use.

In fact, U.S. Brands Could Gain $27 Billion in 2011 by Bringing Consumers Simpler Experiences and Interactions, according to the findings of the Siegel+Gale 2010 Global Brand Simplicity Index.

Last month in a post I wrote for BurrellesLuce, I acknowledged that the practice of using simple language isn’t always so simple. Those who are tasked with communicating precise and complex information to the general public amidst the pressure and influence of company stakeholders, legal concerns, and a desire to be creative have a job that is anything but simple.

Following are a few key considerations for effective communications.

Put yourself in the role of the consumer.

  • Will your aunt, cousin, neighbor (create your own stand in for the “regular person”) be confused by your message?
  • Will she grow frustrated trying to understand the industry jargon you are using, or overwhelmed trying to make sense of the information presented to her?
  • Will your communications leave her uneasy or even cause her to lose trust in your company?

Now if the “regular person” has little patience for jargon and pretentious language, what about the ubiquitous journalist?

Trade publications and academic journals notwithstanding, today’s reporters, producers and editors need to appeal to a broad audience. They are under increasing pressure to produce more, under tighter deadlines.

  • Will a journalist need to read your news release multiple times in order to make sense of it? Will he even read your release for that matter?
  • How difficult is it for him to find the information he needs on your website?
  • Does the material and jargon lend itself to mis-quotes and factual misinterpretations?
  • Are the key messages you hope the journalist will take away easy to identify?

As communicators, it is essential that we master the art of simplicity.

Until then, as The New Yorker recently pointed out, there is always the “delightfully hostile and vulgar translation device”  UNSUCK IT , designed to take the offending jargon and translate it into plain- English.

I wonder what a list of the most frequently submitted jargon would look like.

Valerie Merahn Simon serves as a senior vice president at BurrellesLuce and is a regular blogger for BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas. She is co founder of PRStudChat, a community for public relations students, educators and professionals; and #HAPPO, a twitter based community to support those looking for jobs in the field of public relations.

  • larsv

    Hi Valerie, great post. I like that you started with the song lyrics; quite true.

    Not sure about a “jargon” list, but my colleague is looking for the news “cliche of the week” at – looking at jargon on the reported side of news.


  • kendallpam

    I actually wrote a blog about this not too long ago, with the focus being car dealerships. If you customer doesn’t understand you, how can they trust you? in particular when it comes to them spending their hard earned money. If they are confused, they will assume you are trying to “take them to a ride.” By helping your customers understand, you build confidence, trust, and loyalty.

  • ValerieSimon

    @kendallpam Great comparison… and exactly why I get very anxious about buying a new car!! I think that sometimes jargon & industry terms are tossed around to demonstrate expertise… the reality is that they often leave the customer with a sense of distrust. Thanks for sharing!

  • ValerieSimon

    @larsv Thanks so much 🙂 Really interesting site Lars– And I love that Chris links to!

  • JGoldsborough

    First off, love you parody song. I like to do that too. Did one a few months back where I tried to explain a client program through the lyrics of OPP :).

    “Simple is better” is something I work on all the time. Still need to get better at it, but Twitter has helped. My least-favorite jargon is acronyms that the people who work for the company act like everyone should understand.

  • ValerieSimon

    @JGoldsborough When discussing communications via early 90’s lyrics I skip the parody & go with Vanilla Ice. “Stop, Collaborate & Listen…” 🙂 Agree that Twitter is extremely helpful in teaching brevity and focus. Thanks for the comments- can’t wait to see you next week!!! (I promise not to sing!)

  • Smart suggestions, Valerie! I’ll never understand how jargon and fluff became so prevalent in news releases. Aren’t we, as the communications experts, supposed to be the ones who help our clients/companies communicate clearly? How in the world did it ever become acceptable for PR pros to fill their media materials with jargon and PR-speak that makes sense to no one?

    OK, off my soapbox now. Good post. 🙂

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