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Six PR And Marketing Tricks For Promoting Complex, Technical Concepts

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. Please find it here.

Ever read through a few pages of a company’s website and still not understood what the organization offered? Or stared far too long at an ad or billboard, trying to grasp the basic premise and wade through the jargon?
Perhaps you’re just not that company’s target audience. But if you arrived at their content, you should be able to take away at least a bare-bones comprehension of what the business is selling. (And rest assured, it’s not you; it’s them.) What’s worse is if you are their target audience and they’ve missed a sale.

It happens all the time: Companies’ otherwise gripping stories get lost in “inside baseball” language, meandering or complex explanations, or even manufactured phrases that roll off the tongue but offer little meaning. Maybe the team is so used to technical lingo that they don’t even recognize it as such, or maybe they think it sounds “cutting-edge.” Whatever the case, it’s detrimental and all too common in today’s tech-centric corporate landscape.

At JSA, technical translation is our sweet spot. As specialists in the tech and telecom space — and specifically, in the internet infrastructure sector (think data centers, physical network providers, optical equipment manufacturers and the like) — most of the topics we help our clients promote rank pretty high on the technical scale. We’ve worked with blockchain companies, subsea cable providers, fintech specialists — you name it. And while most of our clients are B2B and targeting at least semi-technical prospects, they still need coherent, digestible, strategic messaging that doesn’t get lost in translation.

Here are a few tips:

1. Go back to the basics.

When you’re going through whatever messaging exercise works best for your team — whether an on-site, all-hands workshop or hashing out a boilerplate over Slack or Google Drive — try this simple, effective exercise: “Explain it to me like I’m [insert young age].” Reporters, who typically have to learn the basics about several, often technical topics every week, will often request this of their sources. It’s not to say that you must then market the concept at a first-grade reading level, but this approach is a great way to make sure the whole team is explaining key concepts clearly and succinctly.

2. Consider the audience (and for B2B, the audience’s customer).

The companies and topics that are easiest to promote to prospects, investors and the media are the ones that offer clear, tangible and relatable benefits to their customers. For example, a fiber provider that links rural schools up with high-speed internet, unlocking a whole new world of global learning opportunities for students, is a compelling value prop.

But you have to find that story with even the most specialized of companies and concepts, such as a regional internet equipment manufacturer. How can you make its products as buzzworthy? Don’t forget to think about the everyday person who benefits from that equipment. In this case, it’s not just the huge telecom carriers that need these products to operate their networks, but also the students in that same classroom who reap the rewards down the line.

3. Go beyond text.

According to research, people remember 65% of information three days after seeing it if it’s paired with an image, and only 10% of that same information when presented without a visual. Plus, consider this: People following directions that contain illustrations and text perform 323% better than those using instructions without visuals. One more: 54% of 3,000+ consumers in a 2017 survey wanted to see more video content from businesses they supported. The point is, it’s increasingly important to change up the way you present information. Don’t do away with text, of course, but layer in infographics, videos (especially interactive videos, as we explain here), podcasts and other forms of content.

4. Match your messaging to your platform, and meet your audience where they are.

The tone and technicality of the content in a video that’s on your website’s homepage and social media should be completely different from that of a white paper that a few targeted prospects are downloading. And along the same lines, where exactly you post content and engage your audience should be very strategic and well-researched. Maybe you’re targeting sysadmins who frequent Twitter, Reddit and obscure blogs but never log in to Facebook. Perfecting this game of hide-and-seek is especially tricky when marketing technical B2B products. As always, keep a close eye on what’s working and what’s not so you can fine-tune quickly and iteratively. And don’t be afraid to survey your top customers to find out where they look for similar information.

5. Be honest about how technical your audience is, and speak to that audience where they are.

Similarly, take stock of which personas and titles you’re actually targeting. Maybe it’s highly technical IT directors who want to know the nitty-gritty details or, alternatively, C-levels who care less about how your product works and more about the business sense.

6. Secure media coverage, especially with mainstream publications.

You might be thinking, “Aren’t we here to learn how to promote technical concepts to the media?” Sure, but the media community is also a great way to exponentially amplify your story with powerful messaging. Journalists, especially the ones writing for mainstream publications, are trained to write in compelling, straightforward language. So if you can nail down messaging and a pitching strategy that explains to reporters the importance of your company or product (more on that here), journalists will do some of the work for you.

Overall, it’s stories that attract, retain and engage people, not the latest buzzwords, cutting-edge rhetoric or impressive product specs. It may be more difficult to find the right story and the best avenue for it when the company or product you’re marketing is highly technical, but that truth doesn’t change. As Ira Glass said, “Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” Here’s to telling great tech stories!

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