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Home Magazine [Tech Talk] Communicating to the Public: Going from Content to Context

[Tech Talk] Communicating to the Public: Going from Content to Context

Columns - Technically Speaking

Jeffrey White | July 23, 2014

Whether it’s a salesperson trying to acquire a new account, a technician communicating with a client or a client reading content on a website, communication is the backbone of success. Establishing a personal connection with the audience and then creating an emotional connection to the content are two important steps on the pathway to success. There are many opinions on how content should be constructed and the techniques to communicate that content, but a few basic concepts remain consistent throughout.
 

Content is King….or is it?

For years content was thought to be king as the higher the volume of accurate information your company could create, the stronger your company’s position would be as the expert on a topic. Now, in the midst of the information age, quality content is everywhere and it’s difficult to determine who isn’t an expert these days. While there is debate over the exact figure, when we look at the amount of content being created it is believed that every two days we create as much content as we did up to the year 2003. This means that every two days in 2014, we create more content than it took 2000+ years to create in the past! The bottom line is that the amount of content being created and distributed is staggering and the question is apparent: Is having unique and extensive content really king?

Even if content isn’t the ultimate proof of expertise, it doesn’t dismiss the fact that every company and every person still needs to have a core of good, accurate content. Content is still the nail that holds the house together and making sure you have quality nails and a good foundation is what will allow you to create an outstanding house. That being said, there’s so much more that we also need to consider.
 

The King is Dead: Now What?

What will set your fact sheets, website and any other content you create apart from other companies is the context or tone in which it’s communicated. Context is what creates the connection between the audience and the presenter. Identifying your target audience and the tone that will create an emotional connection to your content makes all the difference when creating dynamic and impactful communication. A great example to consider is to imagine you’re trying to create online content about going back to school and the challenges parents could face with bed bugs. The first step in creating the content should be identifying that your target audience is most likely women with children, ages 30-50. One of the best ways to connect to that audience is in a light-hearted tone to minimize concern associated with the topic while communicating simple DIY recommendations that will require two to four minutes to read or watch. A busy mother of three who’s juggling a job and raising kids doesn’t have time to read four pages of internet content on why bed bugs feed on blood and how many legs they have. The content is the same no matter who your audience is but the format of the message you construct and the points emphasized can be very different.

Another example of quality content can be found in a review of the average bed bug sales pitch. Obviously with bed bugs, explaining the importance of the bed and how to conduct a bed inspection and treat a bed for bed bugs is a primary message to communicate to a homeowner. Bed bugs have invaded the sanctuary that is their bedroom and they would do anything to get them out. But what if your organization is 70 percent commercial business and your marketing department has decided to make a push to acquire hospitality business? While the bed inspection is still an important aspect of a hotel bed bug treatment protocol and the backbone of what you will offer, hotel managers understand bed bug basics and that, statistically speaking, they will be confronted with bed bug incidents at one point or another. They need to know how to manage the irate customer at their front desk and how to prevent lawsuits originating from this incident. A factual “bed bugs are in beds” message to a hotel manager is not going to win you their business. What if instead you explained that training housekeeping to conduct a brief visual inspection will reduce the amount of extensive infestations they encounter, thus reducing liability and only increasing the operational time of their housekeeping staff by 2.5 minutes? Now you are speaking in a tone that a hotel manager can relate to and you’ve added context to amazing content.
 

The Curse of Big Words.

In our industry, there are many scientific words that could make up a good majority of our content: metamorphosis, exsanguination, pupa, trophallaxis, thigmotaxis, pheromones. Obviously, they explain the behavior and biology of pests and how our treatments are working but always ask yourself, is there an easier word I can use to communicate the same message? One of the greatest lessons I received in graduate school was to reduce the use of “big words.” Why use a word that requires a dictionary when an everyday word will suffice? Consider:

  • “There is a minimal risk of exsanguination associated with exposure to a prodigious bed bug infestation.”
  • “Bed bugs feed on blood, but death due to bed bug bites has not been documented.”
     

While both sentences communicate the same message, the use of “big words” in the first example only limits your audience. Why force your reader to consult a dictionary which may trigger them to leave your site and find one of the hundreds of others that communicate in an easily understood fashion? Simple content is consistent with a fast-moving society and will allow the consumer to easily digest it.
 

The Mobile Age.

Everything is mobile. Whether it’s an “app” or simply viewing a website on a mobile device, content consumption is on-the-go and everything is about simplicity and speed. Whether it’s a commuter on a subway in NYC trying to kill time reading about nuisance ants or a salesperson between stops walking to their car, content needs to be at their fingertips and easily accessible from a mobile device. Strongly consider creating content that is accessible through mobile devices to gain more eyes and ease the operations of your team.
 

The Vehicle to Drive the Content.

Facebook. Youtube. Twitter. Snapchat. Vine. Tumblr. Which form of communication is the right one? The world of social media can be confusing as each vehicle has a different format to communicate a message. The best question is: Who’s using this social media platform?

While Facebook has received much of the attention due to its large numbers of users and public IPO’s, research is indicating that it’s losing popularity amongst teens and those in their early 20s. That being said, if your target is a mother of two in her thirties, creating a Facebook page to drive content and acquire fans may be a strong option. Snapchat on the other hand is insanely popular amongst teens and possibly a good way to promote a product that may be attractive to those leaving for college for the first time. Knowing who is using each platform and the tone to communicate to that crowd is critical to effectively communicate quality content.

With a large amount of content being created each day and mobile platforms being launched on a weekly basis, communicating your message in a noisy world becomes more complicated every day. Understanding your target audience and the platforms on which they communicate will help you develop context to your message that will attract eyes and win an audience for years to come.



Jeffrey White is technical director of BedBug Central and Cooper Pest Solutions, Lawrenceville, N.J.

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