If one is to take today’s corporate communications at face value, every company is leading the industry, the world’s largest and first-to-market. Regardless of their sector, they’re all the next generation, and have innovation in their DNA. Their products are powered by blockchain, AI, and were developed by disrupters and visionaries who think outside of the box. And they have the best cultures because they’re — wait for it — authentic.
If you’re not sure how to differentiate one company from the next, you’re not alone. When every company uses the exact same adjectives to describe themselves, those words become meaningless. Consumers have long been inured to hype, taking all marketing messages with a grain of salt.
There’s a sense that if you’re not changing the world then you’re second rate. Therefore, corporate communications adopt the language du jour, even if what they espouse is nothing more than an aspiration. As a communications professional, this makes my blood boil.
The truth is, few companies are actually innovating. Most are offering very fine products, which they seek to improve every year in response to customer feedback. Some products are essential to their customer’s day-to-day activities, others are used at critical moments. Are they game changing? Hardly, but they’re still hugely important to a great deal of people, and therein lies that true value. Why hide it?
In the race to use the same hip language and make the same claims as the giants with deep pockets, companies have lost a critical skill, and that is to look at themselves, identify what they stand for, and articulate it to the market.
How do you know if you’re guilty of over hyping your messaging? There’s a simple test: In 30 seconds or less, tell me about your company in an exciting and memorable way. (Memorable is key if you want me to tell other people about your company.) It’s one of the single hardest thing companies face. They often fall into the trap of getting into the mechanics and weeds of what they do while losing focus on describing who the company is.
A lot of companies are founded by folks who worked in a field, but were constantly frustrated by how difficult it was to complete a specific task, find a needed resource or solve a certain problem. They’ve identified a hole and created a niche product that brings real and tangible value to a sector or type of employee. But for whatever reason, their corporate communications are littered with the hype of the moment, obscuring their true value.
This corporate-speak copycatting is also risky. Products may use super smart algorithms, but claiming it’s AI in order to gain market traction or investment dollars can get companies in a lot of trouble, deservedly so, especially when you consider the power social media gives to consumers.
Media is often the best litmus test for company messaging. Because journalists often struggle to make sense of what a company does, especially in industries such as financial services and technology, where complex business with simple easy-to-understand descriptors are hard to find. If a company can’t convey their messages effectively and their websites are useless resources for this type of information, journalists are forced to take their best guesses.
Here’s my best advice: Speak in plain language about the true value of your products, and how customers benefit them. You may not have an R&D department staffed with hundreds of PhDs, but if your products are solid and reliable, take pride in it. And by all means, don’t bury the real value under a bunch of marketing jargon.
About the Author: Briz Media Group’s founder has been at the forefront between the cross-section of traditional and digital public relations. Active in the technology scene since the early 2000’s, David has an extensive knowledge of the industry, and deep relationships with its influencers. David is responsible for the overall agency direction and management, and new product development. Over the course of his 20+ year career, he has made his mark by working with brands and agencies, big and small, to develop, manage, and execute successful strategic communications programs that build businesses and serve as a catalyst for conversation. David’s client experience includes representation of Cheetah Mobile, AnchorFree, M&C Saatchi Mobile, Criteo, among many others.