Translating the language of technology

That Professor Brian Cox OBE is a hugely insightful and charismatic speaker has never been in doubt. But the massive turnout for his opening keynote speech at IP EXPO Europe served to reinforce his unparalleled ability to explain some of the world’s most complex theories through simple terminology.

Professor Cox, who is fond of stating that “the idea’s quite simple” while demonstrating concepts like Einstein’s Theory of Cosmology, explained that it’s now possible to use big data to map the afterglow of the original Big Bang. This saw the expansion of an entity the size of an atomic nucleus into the sprawling (and still expanding) universe in which Planet Earth spins around the sun. At some point far in the distant past, there was a day without a yesterday.

A noticeable element of Professor Cox’s speech, which linked cosmology to quantum physics and from there to quantum computing, was the use of familiar analogies. The gravitational waves seen in the fabric of space were compared to the ripples caused by pebbles thrown into a pond.

New technologies are rarely as complicated as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which as Professor Cox explained maps the position of two trillion galaxies in the visible universe. However, the best communications used to launch even highly complex new tech products onto the market take a leaf out of Professor Cox’s book.

Instead of going into detail about how the technology itself works, effective tech PR tells a story about how technology will change personal or business life for the better. True, Professor Cox presented his audience at IP EXPO with some stupendous facts and figures about space, but these served as ‘wow’ factors to help build a picture, rather than technical details that were too difficult to comprehend.

Our advice to companies who want to promote new (or refreshed) technology is to ask three key questions:

  • What challenge or issue will this solve for people or businesses?
  • What genuine proof points do we have that it solves the challenge or issue outlined above?
  • What makes it different to all of the other products that claim to do the same thing?

The answers will generally help to frame a narrative that can underpin PR tactics for multiple channels. The second big lesson we’ve learned from devising campaigns for hundreds of tech brands over the years is to avoid the big claims:

  • We are disrupting the market (when multiple firms have already disrupted the market in question)
  • This product is unique (it rarely is)
  • We are the Uber of the xx world (less prevalent than it was, following recent events)

Synthesising effective messages about a product or service is a core skill for any PR consultant – but turning technical information into tangible benefits is vital to the success of a tech campaign.

Written by Judith Massey, Executive Director

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