As a developer or PR of a startup company, have you ever wondered why your press releases or company docs do not always get results? Well, from a long time tech blogger, blog editor, and consulting perspective, it may be because your terminology is just plain outdated. Lame, might be a better way to describe the trend for some “communicators” to overuse phrases or terms that pretty much “label” even great technology or innovation improperly. What we are talking about here is basically a failure to differentiate a service or product from hordes of others by using “cliché” or hyped terminology.
As a writer, I have been guilty to an extent of using commonly associated words to describe innovation or technically complicated subjects myself. Thousands of times, I might add. At the advent of what many termed Web 2.0, such subtle descriptive laziness became sort of matter-of-fact accepted method for quite some time. But now, years later, and after thousands upon thousands of Internet commodities have been “labeled” in such ways, the use of some of these terms fairly dooms some developments to hard times on some level. An example would be when a developer reaches out to a media source for visibility. Image your company dogma or press from the point of view of the writer or reporter alone. Does your “talk” differentiate your “walk” from anyone else? Now think about the consumers of your product or service!
Below are some terms which are, without a doubt, some of the most overused in the PR, marketing, and in the end development vocabulary. Beside them are some concrete reasons not to use them, followed by suggested alternatives. The bottom line here is; “If your service or product is that much better than the competition, there are certainly words available to better describe it.”
- Seamlessly integrates … – If I see this used one more time, I swear I will write to whoever typed it. After about 40,000 instances of this incoherent way of describing the flow of a system, writers become almost angry (at worst), or instantly turned off (at best) to whatever else is written within your developmental literature. “Seamlessly integrates” was good for the first 500 technologies which exhibited some real form of congruity between one aspect or feature and another. But then came ones which were “less than seamless”, as well as the reader’s BS alarm syndrome which goes off within 30 seconds of reading about your technological marvel. Suggested alternatives, best to worst – effectively joins, effectively marries, perfectly marries, amalgamates, harmoniously joins, fluidly integrates, etc. The key here being, “integrating” the term to describe the feature. Never use seamlessly integrates again, if you do you just branded your “new wheel” with the square ones out there.
- Award Winning …. – If every technology, product or person that won an award were all they were cracked up to be? I won’t say too much here, but humility is one exemplary commodity of higher excellence. There is nothing wrong with listing these accolades, but trumpeting them to the masses? A sure sign of brand weakness and mediocrity. Any development worth its salt will put hard work and continued striving above resting on hollow compliments as testimonial. Some examples of how to properly display awards – the most prestigious revealed on a landing, but not over shadowing the more important user value content. A page with them all listed in context perhaps. And, if and when a tremendous accolade is awarded, perhaps a press release in conjunction with user value propositions like upgrades or incentives. Just think of one of the South American generals with 400 medals on his uniform. How many distant wars were there in South America?
- Cutting edge technology… – Another overused term to describe “new” or more advanced technical development. This one is used far more often than even “seamlessly” but is actually not as “cute” as that one. Is the technology or innovation really on the razor’s edge, or does your development team just like it or wish it were? There are big problems with labeling features or aspects improperly, I will not go into them all here. Suffice it to say that lying about your development is not the best branding or credibility exercise. Aside that, people are sick and tired of hearing this too, and differentiating a technological advancement with this term no longer works well. Suggested alternatives – Advanced, industry leading (only if it is), next generation (again used sparingly, and only if true, but better semantics suggest actually describing and modifying the truth about general version or developmental progress. An example would be; “These sequential refinements, while moderately significant now, pave the way for far more advanced technology breakthroughs….). The short term value in telling a rather “exacting truth” will be the right author or potential client understanding your development, and in the end establishing credibility to your efforts.
- Feature rich UI, or other commodities – Need I describe or list how many times developments use this in press and company literature? This is an ultra lazy and cliché way of leaving out whole volumes about a user interface or other innovation. From the writer’s perspective (unless one regurgitates press releases like Mashable), your company is advertising your best features by saying; “We are too lazy or incapable to describe our own ingenious efforts.” In a very real way developers and their marketing team break the first rule of positive communication, they insult their audience. As a branding exercise, or a simply effective visibility measure, overstating or even ineffectively projecting a development is bad business.
- Web 2.0 Platform – Web 2.0 was used so prolifically back when I started testing and analyzing startups it almost went without saying that the term needed to be added in the text, as well as in the tags to properly differentiate “new” Web technologies from more traditional “dot com era” types. The lines of distinction were pretty clear back then. However, Web 2.0 was never any kind of real movement or even a viable term at all when all was said and done. If for no other reason than this, developers should stay pretty far clear of lumping their wares in with a hundred thousand other products and services. Especially considering the vast majority of so called “Web 2.0” startups are now in the dead pool. Suggested alternatives – Internet platform, Web based platform, even “Cloud Based Platform” (if it applies), better yet whatever the “platform” is for – period. Again, honesty and transparency being the best policy in the long run.
Describing the Indescribable
Face it, developments are in general programming, graphical, or business centric by nature. With that being said, sometimes development teams are forced to rely on outside expertise in homing their messages to meet the character of their innovation. The short of that is, they seldom have time to do much by way of being as good at “expression” as they are at “making things happen” with regard to ideas coming into reality. This is kind of a shame, as many developers could easily refine their skills at communicating, they just don’t have the time or inclination. I have worked with many of the most successful developments ever launched. This is not some advocacy for me personally, but important because just like watching a coding platform crash and burn. We see the results of improper strategies and ideas. So, from the “explaining” side of the equation, please understand these things matter a great deal. Maybe as much as the “rocket science” on the developer end.
Your innovation, your genius in hammering out new territory or refining old territory, is eventually (so often) extraordinarily difficult to explain to readers or to users. This will always be a problem as many of you already know. There are so many things that go into this mix of technology, business, PR, and progress. Some of you may not know this, but there is a reason so many articles and content contain some of these “cliché” terms. If your were at Mashable say, with the editor breathing down your neck to get an article out in 20 minutes, would you simply paraphrase the press release, or venture off and test the application and then create a perfect description? We know that answer. This is not a terrible thing, but in the end your hard work, your blood sweat, and even the people who might use your innovation, deserve better than a sound-bite.
Look at it this way, even if your service or product stinks up the developer’s space, painting it with “hard sell advertising lingo” is not going to work as well as creative and exacting writing. I hope this little primer helps, and that when you re-create the wheel someone does not label is as “a seamless integration of the ground with geometry.”