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Brain Hurting Yet? How to Simplify Complex Content

Monday, October 6th, 2014 by Kate

One of the rewards of supporting our super-smart clients is that we at the Content Bureau learn about all sorts of interesting, albeit complex, products and solutions. In the last couple of months alone we have delved into the intricacies of adverse signal detection solutions in pharmaceuticals, and taken up the challenge of illustrating integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems for an automotive OEM.

It seems in our rapidly digitizing, big data-driven world that complex topics like these are becoming the norm. The challenge for marketers is to find ways to simplify the discussion and presentation of complex concepts or solutions so that audiences are inspired to learn more, rather than become confused or frustrated. Tips that have worked for our clients include:

  • Anchoring it with one, core graphic. We have all seen white papers or data sheets festooned with an array of dense, nearly unreadable illustrations. Articles for medical journals and technical product white papers are particularly susceptible to this. Taking a “less is more” approach can be the better route. Creating one overarching graphic that can then be scaled, highlighted, and so on, will be more helpful to a reader.
  • Chunking it up into bite-sized pieces. Everyone has a limit to how many facts, illustrations, and case studies they can absorb, much less adopt and apply. Rather than go “all in,” do yourself and your readers a favor by taking a complex topic apart and creating three short pieces—maybe two-page summaries—on different components of a solution. These are not only easier to digest, but they also provide a way of maintaining the conversation about the solution as the sequence of pieces is released.
  • Drawing an analogy. One way to make complex topics or solutions more palatable is to compare them to everyday, easily understood concepts or items. While it takes a bit of creativity to find the right analogy, it can put audiences at ease and give them confidence that a topic is not so complicated that they can’t understand it.
  • Demo-ing it. For some solutions, seeing truly is the path to believing and greater understanding. YouTube can be your best friend here, because a three-minute video demonstration can be worth more than a library of static copy.
  • Staying positive. When dealing with complex material, it’s tempting to emphasize its complexity. But dwelling on it can make audiences anxious and doubt their ability to grasp—much less purchase—the solution. Our advice: strike words like “complex,” “complicated,” “advanced” or “next generation” (which is jargon anyway) from marketing collateral whenever you can. These words can hurt more than help.

There are no topics or solutions that defy explanation, but there are right ways and not-so-good ways to wrestle them to the ground. Be brave enough to be simple, short, and optimistic. After all, the goal of most marketing collateral is to get your audience to continue the conversation. So, approach your discussions of complex material as invitations to more dialogue, not exhaustive analysis.

is a member of the Content Bureau editorial team.

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