Technology and communication: How to reduce complexity without oversimplifying issues

If you want people to understand you, you have to express yourself clearly. The key is to reduce complexity. But where? And, above all, how?

Technology and communication: How to reduce complexity without oversimplifying issues

If you want people to understand you, you have to express yourself clearly. That is not always easy, however. So how do you communicate with a wide audience? "Short and sweet" is the mantra of the advertising industry: Find a succinct message, a perfect slogan. By contrast, PR has more room to maneuver – and hence more room for explanations. The key is to reduce complexity. But where? And, above all, how?

Communication always seeks to add value for the companies it serves. At tech companies, such value is added by creating a context in which products and technologies become visible. Communication has to explain why and at what point this or that innovation is deployed, what benefits it yields, and how any inherent risks can be contained. Scenarios and storylines are useful tools for this purpose. It is they that make technology tangible, explainable. On the other hand, if you merely swamp your target groups with a barrage of bits and bytes, facts and figures about your products, the audience for your communication will gradually shrink until you are left only talking to hardcore insiders. It is fair to assume that that cannot be the goal of technology marketing.

Strange but true

The educational character of PR activities essentially hinges on two things: the topic and the target group. No one wants to go wading through unwieldy technical articles that are as long as your arm. Having said that, the desired – and required – level of technical detail varies very considerably from target group to target group. Especially for a German readership that tends to be rather critical, rigid statements and inflexible assertions are not enough. People need reasoning and examples, different angles, figures that substantiate value added. The more technological and innovative the subject matter, the more closely PR agencies and their clients must work together on the content: Experts from client firms supply the explanations that the PR people then edit to suit the needs of influencers.

Two golden rules of PR for topics that need a lot of explaining

  1. The requirement for explanation depends on the target group.
  2. The more innovation, the greater the need for explanation.

Example:

Network specialist as opinion leader for a niche topic

The work we do for network vendor Brocade is a good example. Besides hardware components for data centers, Brocade also pursues an innovative virtualization strategy called software-defined networking (SDN). SDN is not an easy concept to get your head round. Even among the It decision-makers and administrators who make up the target group, the highly innovative nature of the concept necessitates considerable explanation. The challenge is therefore to communicate the topic in as much technological depth as necessary but as clearly and understandably as possible. Only then do the importance and benefits of SDN really come to light. At the same time, this topic gives us the chance to position Brocade as an opinion leader in the given market segment.

To do so, we mapped out a content strategy that combines technical explanations with trend reports and opinion pieces and is rolled out across a broad spectrum of channels. The result? PR content such as specialist articles, opinion pieces, white papers and interviews are constantly used and reused in modified form for a purpose-built and largely vendor-independent microsite. A corporate blog in German features contributions by speakers from the client company, creating a platform for a German-language blogger community that tests SDN products from Brocade and reports on them in independent posts[U3] . Teasers and links to both the microsite and the blog are posted on a dedicated Twitter channel. Key journalists attend an annual press brunch to find out about the latest news from the world of SDN. In response to technological, channel-specific and business questions about SDN, the media regularly ask Brocade for its views. 

Innovative formats for innovative companies

For topics that need a lot of explaining, the important thing is to create the right platform. A subject-specific microsite featuring multimedia content and built around consistent content marketing logic is only one of many options – albeit one that clearly has a bright future. Content must be disseminated via those channels that the target groups use the most. Company spokespersons positioned as industry experts in the public perception need to give the topic a human face from varying perspectives. That in turn presupposes clear messaging: a careful blend of explanation, vision and unambiguous opinion. Why? Because if you want people to understand you, you have to express yourself clearly.