(…Or, A Major Multinational News Service Inexplicably Obfuscates its Intention of Advancing Understanding of Innovative Consumer Interaction Restructuring.)
So I just read Erik Wemple’s article about CNN’s Redesign and was struck, as he was, by the God awful marketing speak CNN used to describe the redesign. However, as is so often the case, we can learn more from failure than success. The redesign itself was, of course, intended to facilitate access from a wide range of devices, incorporate social sharing and encourage engagement. By all appearances, the redesign accomplishes these tasks. The descriptions of the changes to the site, however, leave a lot to be desired.
The descriptions were littered with nigh meaningless phrases, such as “seamless integration,” “total re-platforming,” and “automatically re-optimizes.” Yes, Strunk and White are rolling over in their graves. Clarity is the heart of good communication, and phrases like these – common as they have become – are the enemy of clarity. What is worse is these phrases defeat the purpose the redesign they attempt to describe.
CNN’s site modifications/upgrades improve the user’s experience. The changes make it easier to share, easier to discover, and easier to access. So, one might ask, why employ language that is more appropriate to a political cover-up than a renovation that should generate increased traffic? After all, that is the holy grail of online news reporting.
There is no way to know for sure exactly what the point was, unless it was an attempt to make the changes sound more impressive. It might be that simple. There is a lesson to be learned from this failure, though. When it comes to marketing yourself, your site, or your product, keep it straightforward.
Trying to bury the purpose of your marketing in obscure language not only insults your audience, it undermines your marketing efforts. If I’m trying to encourage people to buy my new novel in eBook format, I don’t call it “an opportunity to invest in a re-optimized version of an entertainment experience that seamlessly integrates with ereaders.” I say, “Get your copy of Rises: A Samuel Branch Novel, available for Kindle.” (Achievement Unlocked: Shameless Self-Promotion)
The second version of that statement doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. It’s a pitch, albeit a short one best used on Twitter. Maybe someone clicks on the link, maybe they don’t, but no one is left scratching their head. If they do click, it’s because they understand exactly what they’re getting into. What CNN did was try to reinvent a wheel that already worked. In doing so, they confused rather than clarified and, by proxy, undermined good communication.
If you want your marketing to work, deliberately forego utilizing needlessly complex linguistic machinations. I mean, embrace clarity.