Coherence Is More Than a Three-Syllable Word

October 31, 2008

One of the things I studied in college was business, and there's something I learned quickly: You have to know how to talk the talk. True, business jargon has existed for years, but it seemed to reach new heights during the last 20 years—such ridiculous heights, in fact, that there has been a well-deserved backlash by some of the very companies who may have had a hand in the problem.

That's why I'm always surprised to see press releases from well-meaning companies that use precious space to write garbled, buzzword-laden stuff like this:

"[Company name], today published a framework for pharmaceutical companies to develop a new value proposition for sales into medical group practices. Available for download through the [company's] website, the approach positions a pharmaceutical component as the keystone to an entire ecosystem of businesses marketing to physicians, creating a value-added network to improve the service of health. There is an enduring "way of marketing" in the pharmaceutical industry centered on promoting the features and benefits of drug brands. Commercial models are designed and in turn "optimized" to promotional response curves. A disconnect in pharmaceutical brand management occurs when many pharmaceuticals, particularly those for primary care or chronic conditions, are perceived by the marketplace as commodity inputs. In this kind of operating environment, promotional push of features and benefits has reached its productivity frontier. The traditional calculus becomes obsolete."

When I read this, a little vein pops out on my forehead. Even with a business background, I have almost no clue what any of that meant. I doubt many in the pharmaceutical industry will either, but it's certainly good for a laugh.

It's no laughing matter, however, when potential markets can't understand what you're saying. This goes beyond a routine press release, I'm afraid. Every now and then, it's a good idea to take a hard look at the message you're broadcasting across all media and make any needed adjustments. Take it from us.

Your current and potential customers shouldn't need a dictionary and thesaurus nearby in order to decipher your message. Staying clear, concise, and coherent in all your communications efforts is the best way to get your message across—and keep you from being roasted by the editorial community.