Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.


I thought that friends, associates, and even strangers were sending me lots of love (LOL) when responding to my text and email messages. It seemed a bit odd at times, but it was nice. It brightened my days. My teenage son brought me down to earth. LOL, he explained, means Laughing Out Loud.

Not only were some of my messages being disrespected, I didn’t understand this new shorthand. I was exposed as a poser. For those of you not fluent in teenager talk, a poser is someone who acts like they know something when they don’t.

The language you use to promote your goods or services can get you branded as a poser. You may feel that you are making a positive impression when loading sales pitches with in-house lingo. You may believe you are broadening horizons by building promotions and advertising around industry buzzwords. But what if your target audiences aren’t attuned to your words and phrases? You may leave them confused, turned off, or – worst of all — LOL.

They may write you off as a poser and choose to do business elsewhere.

The best way to connect with target audiences is to speak their language. Don’t expect your clients and customers to learn yours. Say what you have to say clearly and succinctly. Make your messages meaningful in words and phrases your target audiences understand. It’s good to be creative and innovative, but don’t go overboard. Don’t substitute cute for truth.

Don’t abandon professionalism for insider short-hand.

Don’t allow jargon to create a perception that those doing the talking are members of an exclusive club. That means those doing the listening are not. They are outsiders. Yet the listeners are the target audiences. They are the potential customers and clients. Making them feel left out or under-valued won’t do much for the bottom line of any business.

Posers take refuge in using language that sounds good, but doesn’t really make sense. Listen closely to those ads that insist one product is better than all the others because it does or doesn’t contain antioxidants, or some other obscure something. I confess that I wouldn’t know an antioxidant if I saw one, even if it rang my doorbell. But that’s what some posers are selling – polysyllabic words that sail over our heads.

Using effective language starts with effective listening.

Listen to what you’re saying in your sales approaches.

Listen well, then trim away the jargon, the pompous wording, and insider phrasing. If, after the trimming, there’s no meat left in your message, it’s time for rewriting.

Listen well to your target audiences. Understand their wants and needs. If you don’t understand, ask questions.

Through focus groups, surveys, and direct contacts, keep asking until you do understand. Asking has two positives. First, questioning directly engages you in the priorities of clients and customers. And the better you understand priorities, the better you can tailor advertising and marketing promotions.

Some people worry that they will look dumb if they ask questions. Don’t give in so easily. Keep asking questions until you understand the answers. Asking doesn’t make dumb. Asking educates. There’s no gain in not understanding, not asking, or settling for answers that don’t make sense.

Do keep an eye on the new languages evolving.

If text lingo is the language of some of your target audiences, incorporate text-talk in your marketing to them. But understand what you’re saying.

Don’t leave ‘em LOL.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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