Submitted by: Kristin Rabas, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

Do you ever feel like companies are trying to talk to you in a language you don’t speak? Recently, I was searching the web looking into some home improvements in order to take advantage of a current tax credit. The first site I went to informed me that new windows or doors need to have a less than .30 SHGC. What does that mean?! No explanation, so I had to look it up. I found that SHGC stands for solar heat gain coefficient. OK…I found the definition, but I still didn’t know what the heck it meant as far as what I should be looking for in a product.

Ok, this is a pretty industry-specific but still, why couldn’t this site just say that SHGC measures how much solar heat is allowed to pass through the window? And then explain what kind of rating I should look for and why. I’m guessing most people aren’t familiar with the energy star ratings of windows, so if you’re trying to get me or anyone else to buy these windows we need to understand what you’re telling us!

Whether you’re promoting a new product, explaining a catastrophe or talking about a community outreach program, it’s important that you use language that everyone will understand. In some cases it’s impossible to use a word that the general public knows. Maybe you make widgets and that’s just what they’re called. Instead of just using the term, take the time to explain exactly what a widget does and why it’s important – in plain English.

One of the most important aspects of public relations is communication. This means communicating coherently, accurately and concisely. I think we’ve all been in a situation at one time or another when a colleague, friend or maybe even a stranger has used some language or terminology that we weren’t familiar with, but why would you want anyone to be confused when you’re selling a product or promoting your business?

I’m not saying we have to treat everyone like they’re idiots. I’m just saying that if you make me feel like an idiot or make things confusing, I’ll be less likely to read your news release, buy your product or tell others about it. No one has the same experiences, backgrounds or culture. So remember, even if you and I speak the same language, it doesn’t mean I’ll always understand what you’re saying.

I hope I’m not alone on this one. Anyone else ever been in a similar situation?