How many parental grumbles have phrases like this caused? No-one was literally dying, of course. And neither was it even like they were literally dying. But although the older generation often sighs at the degradation of their once-great language, this linguistic process is entirely natural. Over time language, and most notably spoken language, develops new ‘filler’ words used more to mark a pause than to convey meaning. And this is how ‘like’ and ‘literally’ are used today – whether we like it or not.
In a social context, words with no intrinsic value might be annoying, but in the financial services industry, they present a real challenge to a PR agency.
At Aspectus, we work with companies who develop sophisticated products for an incredibly complex industry. Many of our clients occupy a space in the market that aims to drive profits and increase efficiency for brokers, bankers and managers, all the while making their lives considerably easier.
The financial services value chain obviously necessitates some niche vocabulary: OTC swaps, algos and reference data have little to no meaning to the man on the street, but in our industry they are key descriptors. The problem is rather the abundance of stagnant language that has arisen around this vocabulary, which has, much like our teenage ‘likes’, become meaningless.
Imagine you are buying a product. You have the choice between a fully-integrated, best-of-breed and strategic solution that leverages technology to take a holistic view of a problem and an excellent tech product that is easy to use and can cover every aspect of that same problem. The former sounds more sophisticated – but why?
Perhaps because of the way it sounds, or perhaps because it stands out from the language of this blog. But now imagine that every product on offer purported to be best-of-breed, fully-integrated and strategic, and every view it took was holistic due to its leveraging of technology. Suddenly this language loses its sophistication, and in its abundance, it becomes as meaningless as a ‘like’.
Our goal as a PR agency is not to sell a company to journalists, nor is it to force that company to be something it isn’t to get coverage. Rather, we are a lens that focuses and magnifies a client’s message to its target media: often our job is to make something that is indeed incredibly complex simple to understand and relevant to a wider audience.
So while complex and sophisticated language has become commonplace in our industry, shouldn’t we encourage our clients to stand out from the crowd by keeping it simple?
We believe that clarity of language can have an impact on more than just media coverage. Every product on the world market is trying to stand out in some way or another and there are various tactics employed. But while humorous ads and promotional events are alright for some brands, financial institutions would be better served by simplifying their rhetoric.
Those who don’t will be, like, literally left behind.