The Articulation Crisis

August 12th, 2008

Today’s front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer brings up an issue our agency has dubbed “The Articulation Crisis.” The reporter, Stacey Burling, refers to it as “supply-side jargonism,” the daunting process companies go through in trying to explain what they do to their consumer or client base.

It’s becoming increasingly common to see companies struggle to convey the work they do. Wordy, heavily jargoned phrases, which are understandable to only the most elite literati, are confusing rather than enticing to target audiences. The reasons for these complicated “messes” of messaging are actually pretty simple. Lots of companies fear pigeon-holing themselves, so they add every service, product line and offering they can fit into their introduction. And to appear intelligent and thorough, they then add every ambiguous, verbose, and multi-syllable word they can find.

We work with our clients to find the right words or phrases that explain what they do and then we put it to the dinner party test. That means is it immediately understandable to the average dinner party guest.

If someone asked what you do, would you really say that you are a “market-leading provider of technology-enabled process-optimization tools to reduce and right-size inventory, improve forecast accuracy and service, optimize production resources, and reduce cycle time across the supply chain” as Burling asks readers today to a friend or acquaintance? If you did you’d probably be talking to yourself pretty quickly. And that’s someone trying to make conversation. Now imagine your trying to sell to a business prospect…they’re likely not going to be as encouraging or forgiving of a boring, loquacious elevator speech.

A quick rule of thumb for articulation — short, sweet and simple messaging is the way to go.

Let’s look at what Google says. According to their mission statement, they “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Google, one of the most well known companies in the world – with a simple, articulate message aimed at their core audience.

Yeah, we know the KISS method – Keep It Simple Stupid – is a pretty elementary notion. But, hey, who’s smarter than a fifth grader?

Posted Under: Branding, Storytelling
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