3 ways to communicate complex ideas to your audience

Does your organisation communicate clearly with your customers or clients? It sounds obvious, but many businesses are missing out because their messages simply don’t resonate with their audience. If your service involves complex ideas or expert content, then getting these across to your audience in a clear and straightforward way will be vital to your success. This is a common issue across many industries, including energy, finance, telecoms, and healthcare, and those who do it well will reap the rewards.

The finance industry is well-known for having complex content, and not always explaining it well. According to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA): “[information] can overwhelm, confuse, distract or even deter people from making effective choices if presented in a way people struggle to engage with…It is evident most firms need to do more to communicate with consumers in a way that truly empowers them to make effective decisions.”

The FCA also recognises the role that clear communications can play in improving efficiencies within the wider industry, through less time spent dealing with complaints.

Compliance

The benefits of clarity go beyond attracting new customers; it can also ensure that you comply with industry legislation, as BT will testify. Their BT Infinity ad promoting ‘the UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal’ was banned last year by the Advertising Standards Authority because, although BT’s product testing was deemed sufficient to demonstrate the specifics of the claim, it was decided that consumers could interpret the message inaccurately.

Similarly, six UK universities were asked to withdraw their marketing claims last year because they were representing their data in a way that could be misleading for prospective students.

So, how can you achieve success with your complex communications? Solcroft’s editorial team have put together their top tips:

1. Cut the jargon

This is a common problem we see all the time – marketing communications that use industry jargon when speaking to customers. From snappy acronyms through to long-winded technical terminology, it’s everywhere. But, although you may be familiar with this language, your audience might not have a clue what you’re talking about. For example, many banks are introducing their customers to the idea of Open Banking, but the concept itself is not always easy to define. Despite promising to explain what open banking is, and why it matters, this NatWest page fails to adequately explain the basic premise and sends you to another site to find out the full picture.

So, how can you ensure a genuine dialogue rather than a one-sided conversation?

Action: Run a conscious ‘jargon check’ on all your communications, looking for abbreviations, acronyms, any terminology that has become so familiar to you that it’s part of your language. Ask a trusted contact for feedback if you’re not sure. Be sure to spell out any abbreviations or acronyms.

Example: During our work to launch the first ever Global Fertilizer Day, we successfully explained to the general public the essential role of fertilizer in sustaining the world’s growing population. Clear copy and graphics, including an illustrated factsheet and an animation, got the message across in a simple and straightforward way.

2. Define the right tone of voice

Going beyond specific words and phrases, the tone of voice that you use to communicate with your audience sets the tone for your relationship with them. Are you formal or friendly? Precise or engaging? People respond to communication methods that make them feel comfortable; conversely, if it doesn’t resonate then you’ve probably lost them. Healthcare is a good example of an industry where the audience may be worried or distressed, and are seeking a calm and reassuring voice to guide them.

Action: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What are they seeking from you? How would you like to be spoken to in their position? What would you find off-putting? Define the tone of voice that suits your brand and your audience, and implement it consistently.

Example: Ramsay Health Care UK asked us to put together a patient guide for their new paediatric service. We approached the service from the child’s perspective and created a visually engaging brochure featuring illustrated animal characters, which told children what to expect from their hospital visit in a friendly and reassuring way.

3. Walk them through

If you can’t explain the benefits of your idea, product or service in a few easy points, your audience may struggle to comprehend its true value. That could be because there are many different stakeholders involved, it could be a long-term project, or perhaps there is a mountain of data to explain. This is a particular issue for any industry that offers complex services, and should not be underestimated. Distilling your content into bite-size, informative points will appeal to your audience and keep them reading to the end.

Action: Break longer content into manageable sections, helping your reader to navigate through with ease. Make good use of infographics to explain data, or perhaps a video animation could get your point across well? Colours and icons can also help people to navigate through your content more easily.

Example: Kent and Medway NHS Trust asked us to create an animation to tell the public about their upcoming consultation process on local stroke services. We considered all aspects of the process and mapped out a straightforward yet engaging narrative that informed the viewer about the proposed changes.