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The Art of the Message: Simplification Vs. Clarity

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One of the tricks of good copy writing and good creative development in general is knowing the right time to simplify. If you’ve been around the block, this is not a new concept for you. But is simplifying always Right with a capital R?

Multiple Stakeholders Can Influence the Messaging Strategy

Probably the scenario in which I have most often encountered the need to simplify is when there are a lot of chefs in the kitchen. I say chef, instead of cook, because these are all players that feel a need to offer value to the process. That, or they need to mark their territory. In any case, you’re developing something, let’s say a messaging strategy, and there are multiple stakeholders that want to control some part of what goes into that. It might be individuals representing different business functions, or it could be a team with a loose hierarchy.  

Sometimes, this works. Sometimes, a single, focused message supports the needs of the many, and they can all see it from the start. But other times, there are either multiple itches that everyone wants scratched. Maybe they’re all valid itches too. But from a consumer’s perspective, a messaging strategy with too many directions can be confusing, distracting, boring and off-putting. In other words, you’re defeating the point of having a messaging strategy. Someone in this scenario has to be the voice of reason. And why not the copy expert? This person should force the ensemble cast to ask, “What is the most critical message to communicate?” What clear thought will make or break the goals of that consumer-facing interaction? That’s your message.

That doesn’t mean you can’t satisfy your squabbling group though. Let’s assume that everyone’s input is valuable, and diplomatically speaking, you might want to do this, regardless. Now, it’s time to prioritize. Following your powerful, primary message, move down through the tiers of importance. If your messaging strategy is to support a website, these secondary and tertiary tiers might take over their own pages, where they can have the room to be properly represented, without cluttering the primary message on the home page, for example.

Clarity Over Simplification

But let’s explore an example of a scenario in which simplifying might be a wrong turn. In this, we want to consider our audience. Let’s say that our audience is a highly technical one, and we’re trying to convince them of the merits of a particular product. This would be the wrong time, most likely, to attempt to simplify our message for the layman or the business executive. That’s not our target, and to our target audience, we might sound unknowledgeable, or at the least, as if we didn’t understand their needs.

But there’s an important distinction to be made here, because simplification can have a lot of meanings. We don’t want to simplify our language or the concepts we’re conveying. But that doesn’t mean we can’t hone the focus of our message, that we can’t provide clarity. We want clarity and focus, not oversimplification of concept.

It’s Clarity You’re After

 So whether you’re simplifying obfuscating language or direction, or ensuring your niche jargon is delivering a powerful idea, you should strive toward communicating with clarity. For every block of text, ask yourself what one idea, emotion or desire you want your reader to walk away with. Then make sure it does that.

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