Imagine Martin Luther King Jr. standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 before hundreds of thousands of admirers. What if he said:
“I have a dream… of a fully-integrated, mission-critical, conflict-resolution application to repudiate racial subdivisions while delivering unprecedented congruity among myriad ethno-racial and socio-economic verticals, deployable across diverse, macro-environments synergistically that will be efficacious in transmuting global, ancestral infrastructure and ideology.”
Do you think he would have kicked off an epic march and changed the course of mankind? But for some reason companies, especially financial services firms, think people will flock to their products and services by throwing out meaningless buzzwords such as value-added, vertically integrate or macro narratives.
One of my pet peeves with the financial services and tech industry is the epidemic use of Greek words. Unless the story is about a fraternity or sorority, why can’t they use English synonyms? These press release headlines sent to me recently are just gibberish.
“Investor Alpha Readily Available but Not Painless”
“5 Beta Checklist Must Haves”
“Generate Higher Gamma and Increase Your Clients’ Retirement Income”
I understand they’re targeting a niche audience in the know. But you cannot assume that everyone who works in finance, such as assistants, or the news media covering the industry understand these terms. Why can’t “excess returns” replace “alpha” and “product testing” for “beta”? How about deleting that phrase about “gamma” altogether?
It’s your responsibility to engage the audience by making your message understandable and interesting. Speak how they speak. Pretend you’re explaining it to a 5-year-old. People have no patience in trying to figure out what you mean or looking things up. Your sesquipedalian elocution fails to impress them. I highly recommend Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, which explains the six principles of communications success: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and stories.
Create a file folder or online notebook with Evernote and clip awesome articles and headlines as models to follow. Refer to them for inspiration when you’re drafting a message. Imitating genius is better than creating your own mediocrity.