Media skills training: Blockchain confusion and how to communicate complex information

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Blockchain confusion and how to communicate complex information

There is an advert that keeps being played in the breaks during the World Cup matches that really sticks in my mind.

And not in a good way.

It talks about household appliances being ‘powered by the blockchain solution’.

When I see it, I don’t get a sudden urge to go out and buy it, mainly because I have no idea what it is talking about. And I’m pretty certain I’m not alone.

 

 

I’m sure HDAC, the company behind the adverts, is producing some cool stuff but the messaging is lazy and complex.

It seems to me to be a massive waste of a prime-time slot – not to mention marketing budget - to fill an advert with complicated language and sector jargon that will undoubtedly be meaningless to the vast majority of viewers.

But it also got me thinking about how media spokespeople should best talk about complicated and highly technical issues and products – like blockchain - in media interviews.

Here is our guide:

 

Resonates

The key when explaining anything technical is to show what it actually means to people.

If we think again about blockchain, how is it going to help people in their day-to-day lives? Will it save them time? Remove stress? How does it differ from how things work now?

By turning the subject around so that it focuses on people, the audience is able to form a connection with what is being said.

Spending time telling us how the technology works isn’t going to make us sit up and take note, but showing us how it will improve our lives might stop us getting out of the car because we want to keep on listening or stop us making a cup of team or switching TV channels. 

 

Examples

If you have been on one of our media training courses you will know we place a lot of emphasis on the power of the example.

And they are even more important when discussing complex topics.

Spokespeople should look to tell stories that will aid the audience’s understanding. Perhaps the technology is already being used in some form which you could discuss or maybe you could talk about the trials.

Even a fictional scenario about how the technology could improve everyday life would be beneficial.

People love hearing stories, so telling stories in an interview to illustrate your point will make your audience sit up and pay attention.

 

Keep the language simple

Simplicity is absolutely crucial.

If the audience has to stop and wonder what a certain word or phrase means, then they are very quickly going to become lost. It can also make spokespeople seem aloof and out of touch with the audience. 

They should instead aim to use the same language they would use if they were talking to a friend or family member, from outside of the industry, in a pub or café.

And no, before you ask, simplicity is not the same as dumbing-down. It is about making the content accessible.

If you really can’t avoid using a technical term, or one inadvertently slips out, make sure you immediately explain what that means.

A spokesperson I recently interviewed during one of our media training courses used the term ‘gross value added’ when discussing the benefits of a development, but then immediately added ‘which really just means certain economic benefits’.

If you use complex language during a print interview, there is the added risk your argument could be misconstrued in the resulting article.

 

Know the details to leave out

As a spokesperson discussing a complex subject you need to be able to self-edit. What you don’t say can almost be as important as the points to deliver.

The bottom line is that actually there are details which, while important to those working on the project or initiative, will not be interesting or relevant to a general audience.

You need to determine what the points are which are really important and leave the rest out. Boil it down to the bare bones.

One tip here would be to think of the Twitter test (before it changed the character limit). Can you reduce the key message you want to get across to 140 characters?

We’ve used this quote before in our media training blogs, but it is worth recalling the words of Albert Einstein here, who said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

 

Perhaps if the blockchain advert had followed some of these media training rules and had been less confusing, I wouldn’t have spent every break heading to the fridge for a beer. Well, that’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it.

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.

 

Click here to find out more about our journalist-led media training courses.

 

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