Business-to-Business (B2B) technology is everywhere, and often companies are working hardest on software that we may never see. Even when you can’t see this technology, it’s affecting you—hopefully for the better.
For example, B2B technology may be helping your primary care physician understand the treatment you received while in the hospital through a health information exchange (HIE), or getting a customer service representative to resolve the issue you wrote about on Facebook through customer relationship management (CRM) software. These types of technology impact us daily, and provide needed business services in growing industries. For the public relations professional, that means new opportunities and projects.
The challenge is, how do you share their message with an audience who may not even know about, much less understand, their offerings? That’s where your writing expertise can play a crucial role. It’s all about finding a happy medium between too-technical jargon and fluffy nonsense.
My first encounter with writing about technology came the day I churned out a newspaper article on iPods in the classroom, and my editor asked me to specify what an iPod touch was. The challenge was that some of our readers didn’t use an iPhone, have an iPod or even spend a lot of time in front of a computer. We had to make the story accessible to them, as well as the more technology-savvy readers. I was surprised by the effort needed to think about an object I used daily and even took for granted and describe it to someone who hadn’t used one before, without dumbing it down so much the reader lost interest.
It was a rewarding challenge, and one I continue to face on the PR side when writing about a client’s B2B technology. When it comes to complex topics, we (and our clients) know the industry and understand the words and phrases used to describe the way their technology works. It can sometimes be difficult to pull back and explain to the consumer precisely what the business does without adding unnecessary language or getting too technical. The key to successful writing about technology is to really, truly understand your client’s industry and product, and write about it…then use a Men-in-Black-style neuralyzer to make yourself forget you ever heard of the topic, and re-read what you wrote. If it still makes sense, you’re done!
If you find someone hasn’t returned the handy neuralyzer to the office supply closet, start with these tips:
- Internal Interviews: This is a great way to get a better understanding of your client’s product from multiple points of view. Talk to the key stakeholders, as well as those from sales and engineering. You want to hear about the product from the people who sell it and understand what the customer wants, along with those who develop the product to meet the customer’s needs. Finally, you need insight from the company’s leadership to understand how this technology affects the big picture and where they see it heading in the future.
- Research Current Industry Trends: During a recent research and messaging exercise for a healthcare technology client, we learned that the industry terms used to talk about their product don’t accurately describe what it does. Due to rapidly changing technology and regulations, the use or value of a product can change long before a new term to describe that change comes along. Once you understand where your client’s product fits right now, you can position it so it stands out in the market.
- Messaging for Multiple Audiences: Once you’ve crafted a concise message, tweak it for multiple audiences. It should be useful to your client’s sales team, at trade events and for pitches. You can create something more technical for a trade publication pitch or an internal meeting, but send out the high-level messaging to more mainstream media contacts or on social media profiles. The conversations you had in step one will help inform what each audience really needs to hear.
- Take a Break: Take a step back, and show your work to someone who isn’t immersed in the B2B tech world. A coworker or even a friend can be helpful, and they’re the first to point out when your well-crafted messaging has turned into a senseless jumble of jargon. If you’re still having trouble, take a look at the journey of Dilbert’s Tina the Technical Writer for some inspiration comic relief.