For most of us, the pandemic is a generation-defining crisis. Almost overnight, communication–internal and public facing–took on added importance. Everyone—from investors to small business owners to frontline workers to C-level executives—needed information. Consumer opinions became even more important. And as massive business shifts occurred, PR facilitated many important economic and social conversations.
The Power of Tech
Technology–legacy firms and startups–are the not-too-invisible drivers in COVID-19 management and recovery. A long-time enabler of economic growth, technology has become a crucial pillar in nearly every business pivot. In addition, just about all sectors rely on multiple technologies for essential needs such as cybersecurity, data protection, e-commerce, energy and more.
Targeted, information-first PR initiatives set the tone for high-quality conversations. Clearly, it’s important that tech firms have successful strategies for participating in those conversations and getting out their messages.
However, there are certain storytelling errors that can prevent even the most important tech content from resonating with intended audiences.
Too Much Buzz
The first mistake some tech storytellers make is overusing buzzwords and phrases. The following are just a sample of those used repeatedly during the pandemic: ‘Now more than ever,’ ‘in these trying times,’ ‘in this unusual moment,’ ‘the new normal’ and, of course, the badly overused ‘unprecedented.’
Buzzwords become buzzwords because they’re generally useful ways of describing things.
However, at this point in COVID-19 coverage, roughly one year in, these words and phrases have the opposite effect. Now numb to their meaning, the reader skips over the buzzword or phrase and feels distanced from the story. An important story has just turned into yet another news item and the reader’s attention is lost.
In a similar category is using too much industry jargon. Never underestimate the reader. Everyone can learn. But, if you begin an article about machine learning with the acronym ML, you risk losing a keen reader simply because it can feel alienating not to recognize a term at first glance.
A simple effort to include the reader—using the phrase ‘machine learning, commonly referred to as ML’—can go a long way toward expanding readership and making content more engaging.
What’s In It for Me?
Above all, readers want information that’s relevant to them. While that press release might seem urgent, it’s important to consider how company-centric news compares to the larger conversation. Instead, it might be time to lead with knowledge and an outstretched hand rather than self-promotion, sales initiatives or corporate milestones.
Aside from avoiding obvious personal agendas, a focus on fundamentals always helps. Begin with big questions: How can you contribute to the larger conversation? What would you say if you had the undivided attention of five people who were eager to learn?
Resources are strained, and COVID-19 news is confronting consumers everywhere they turn. A story that begins with a genuine intention and carries a personal but authoritative tone will cut through the noise in a way that delivers your message and resonates. It will make readers feel more informed, connected and a little less alone.
Zain Jaffer is founder/CEO of Zain Ventures