I’m currently doing an A-Z of Content Marketing and Storytelling to help you add a touch of sizzle and dazzle to the content that you share. Today’s letter is the letter J for Jargon-free communications!
I have to admit I’m not a fan of jargon.
For 30 years, I’ve worked in jargon-heavy industries like Finance, IT and Telecoms after all. I do understand that jargon, to some extent, is a necessary evil because technical topics need to be explained in technical terms. Too little jargon and a serious topic might come across as ‘motherhood’ and far too simplistic, Too much and we lose someone’s attention and they may never come back. As the great Bard Shakespeare once said ‘And therein lies the rub’.
Thankfully, there is a happy medium! A half-way house where everyone can sit around the same table and have the right discussions where no-one is excluded. That place is the land of Storytelling. I’ll show you how to get there through this blog.
Picture this. It’s your first day in a new contract, job or department. You have to get your head around a new topic and quickly, otherwise, you won’t be able to deliver what’s expected of you. You will let everyone down. Worst of all, you might look daft. Your pulse starts to quicken. Time is not on your side.
You get invited to a project meeting, which simply compounds the problem. You are confronted with unfamiliar jargon like ‘ping and poll’, and SNMP and fixed-mobile multidimensional convergence. Your brain starts to wander. You snap back, but by that time you have lost the whole thread of the discussion. More jargon is introduced and you scan your memory for similar words and phrases. You hit a brick wall and are frustratingly locked out of the conversation. Your attention is gone.
This is what happened to me when I moved departments in a large telco. My task was to help a large sales force in a major telco, with different levels of technical knowledge to market and sell a complex portfolio of products, with a toolkit of relevant marketing materials. But attending meetings like this, how could I achieve that if I didn’t understand the topic myself? I knew I had to try a different approach.
Here’s what I did to unlock the jargon. I decided to seize the day by telling stories to unlock dry, fact-based topics and I’ve been doing it ever since.
1. Research your topic
There is little point in creating content for your audience which isn’t relevant; too broad-brush to show the real issues and too detailed to see the bigger picture. Fine art of which they will want to be a part!
So in this case, I set to work to form a thorough understanding by attending courses which unraveled the complexities of the topic by a man, interestingly named Paul Christmas! I attended online courses and made notes and mind maps. I asked my boss to test me on the topic and see if I had got to grips with it. He was impressed so I knew I was good to go.
2. Find the core story which will hold your audience’s attention
In the case of me unraveling the jargon so people at all levels of technical understanding (including me) could understand it, I had to find a theme. The two themes I used were
i) The ‘Overcome the Monster’ story (like Beowulf, the Scandinavian hero who overcomes the monster, Grendel, in the epic story) to help the salespeople and their clients to overcome their fear of selling or buying a complex portfolio
Read my blog showing how to use the Beowulf story theme to help you sell here How to Sell using the Kill the Monster story theme
ii) The Quest story to show how the brave salespeople could overcome huge ordeals to make the world a better place, also enabling their clients to do the same
To illustrate those, I minimised the use of jargon, using familiar examples to which everyone could relate. I created a core story which could be adapted in all kinds of ways.
I talked about how congested voice, data and telephony networks were like gridlocked traffic on a busy motorway in rush hour. Or selling those solutions was like a game of snakes and ladders where pitfalls had to be overcome and ladders to be climbed with messages which would help them play to win. I borrowed metaphors and themes from everyday life like traffic reports, weather reports in podcasts. I wrote and publicised hero stories like one of the salespeople getting on her bike when her car broke down, to go and seal the deal!
Stories really helped the salespeople to sell and seal many multimillion pound deals. I was recognised for my efforts and earned the honorary title of ‘Storymaster’.
3. Find the pain point
When creating a jargon-minimised story framework, I worked out what would most help the salespeople to sell. For some of them it was not having a common language in which to communicate so I did the following
i) I created glossaries explaining the technical terms in simpler, accessible language
ii) I talked to the salespeople and realised that they didn’t know how to explain to their prospects how they could help them. They needed to ‘show and tell’ them what they could do to solve their problems but didn’t have the tools to do that
iii) I segmented my audience so I knew exactly what problems were keeping them up at night and could create content which would give them peace of mind.
4. Create a story toolkit
To narrate your story effectively, you need to be able to present it in a sequential way.
In this scenario, I had a content marketing strategy, with minimal jargon, which was relevant to every chapter of the customer journey.
Chapter 1 was the core story of your proposition which could be adapted to suit any purpose and audience.
The next chapter was the content marketing plan showing how the proposition was going to be taken to market
Succeeding chapters were a toolkit of content marketing materials (web content, in-house newsletters, case studies, brochures, fact sheets, podcasts, etc) which could be used (as part of a strategy) to explain the Convergence story and benefits of buying the proposed solution to an ideal audience.
Stories which sell.
5. Include the right emotions and call to action
When cutting through all the jargon with compelling stories, you need to help your audience:
Feel it so they experience the feelings and emotions you want them to have (like those sales people needing a hook to understand a difficult subject)
Believe it so it is credible and builds trust so they will want to follow you
Visualise it so they can see beyond the problems to the ideal world they are trying to create
Say it so they can repeat the story convincingly to others and become ambassadors for your brand
Do it so the call to action is very clear to them and they know exactly what to do!
5. Roll out your story in a jargon-free, consistent and cohesive way
The final stage of the process is to capture your strategy and vision into a story based plan which delivers the end objective. The why, what, how, when, where and when which will take you where you need to go. The who too… those people who will willingly join you on the journey and want to become part of your conversation and the destination!
Yes, Jargon is important but we still need to explain what the jargon means so we get our audiences to feel and respond in the right way. A proven way to do that is through stories.
I’d like to leave you with two quotes to get us thinking ‘How much Jargon is too much?’.
” People say jargon is a bad thing, but it’s really shortcut vocabulary professionals use to understand one another”
“Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon”
In reality, somewhere in-between is good. Use jargon, sparingly, only where necessary. Use storytelling liberally to create the ideal space where your ideal or a new audience comes to a common understanding to know exactly what to do next…
So next time someone tells you something which is full of jargon, ask them to tell you a story.
And so the story continues…
#jargonfriendly #jargon #storytelling #contentkather #brandstorytelling #selling
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