The curse of knowledge in PR – how to tell your story without being too technical

Sian Bradshaw, Account Manager, City Road Communications

Working in PR and communications, we are often tasked with distilling the complex into something incredibly simple. 

For finance and technology clients, this challenge is even more pronounced. In a world where buzzwords like CFDs, NFTs, AI, IoT and Everything-as-a-Service can leave readers with glazed-over expressions, telling a story that resonates with the audience and has broader news appeal, without sounding like a PhD thesis, takes skill. 

This is because, generally, organisations deep in the weeds of building their business are often immersed in the technicalities of their products. When telling their brand’s story, it can be easy to get carried away – many will launch straight into technical lingo and lose sight of the bigger picture. 

Ultimately, when it comes to generating the right content, not to mention positive media coverage, having great technical knowledge can be something of a curse. If not seen through the right lens, a business risks alienating both journalists and their readers by bombarding them with overly technical information. 

So, how do we deliver successful comms strategies for businesses with very technical products, or operating in niche sectors? Here’s how City Road Comms makes its campaigns more PR, less Proust.

Organise a ‘brain dump’ 

Many people in the PR and comms industry are adept at getting themselves up to speed with unfamiliar and complex topics quickly. However, when it comes to grasping all the details about a complex offering, sometimes it can be more valuable to recognise your own limitations and take a lesson from the experts.

If a client’s proposition is particularly complex, or there’s a lot going on in the company at once, arranging and transcribing a Q&A session during the onboarding process can provide a useful starting point for determining your messaging and PR strategy going forward. Ultimately, there is nobody better versed in your client’s industry than your client, and having someone talk through their value proposition in depth can help you determine which aspects will be the most interesting from a press perspective.  

These sessions are the chance to ask all the basic questions to clients – to get the dummy’s guide, as it were. You can delve into the products as well as interesting topics in the media, pertinent industry trends and how their company ties into them. Your client can ‘brain dump’ their specialist knowledge. From there, you can gather the most important facts and ideas to use in your campaigns, not to mention get a strong handle on how your client’s spokespeople talking about industry issues and their proposition.

Focus on the audience 

Once you’ve gathered the knowledge you need, the next step is communicating the right message with precision.

Working with any new client, one of the most important things to consider is who their audience is, and what do they care about most? This will obviously vary between different companies and products, but the end-goal is always the same – establishing what key problem you’re solving for your customer and explaining it with clarity and simplicity. 

In general, it’s very rare that the technical aspects of a product will be the most interesting to readers, particularly in when it comes to consumer-facing comms. Instead, it can be more effective to frame the brand story around real-life examples or case studies that demonstrate how the product improves efficiency, saves time or money, or solves common pain points. 

Take one high-profile product launch as an example – back in 2001 when Apple announced the first iPod, engineers were really excited about the amount of storage space the device had – 5 gigabytes of data. Apple recognised that this messaging was perhaps less interesting to its customers at the time, who wouldn’t necessarily have known whether this was a lot, or even what a gigabyte was. Instead, Steve Jobs simply said “1,000 songs in your pocket” – he spared his audience of the complicated tech specs and spoke about the product in a relatable way that was aligned with their level of knowledge and what they cared about most. 

This is a lesson that most PR and comms professionals will learn at some point or another – that, more often than not, simple and punchy is best.

What’s the wider issue?

While establishing your client’s USPs is a crucial problem to solve, it’s equally important to understand how their offering fits into the broader news agenda.

Instead of issuing too many product-focused press releases or company announcements, looking for connections between your client’s product and broader topics that are already capturing public attention can be a more effective means of spreading the word. For example, if the client in question has launched an investment app, offering regular investment tips or timely market commentary may be a better way to get cut through with journalists and reach your audience.

By offering journalists new insights on these breaking topics (in other words, ‘newsjacking’), whether through your own data or expert commentary, brands can align their stories with popular trends to ensure their relevance – while also establishing themselves as thought leaders. 

Beyond the jargon

Crafting a ‘simple’ brand narrative that resonates with audiences is anything but easy – it is an art form, with a great deal of time and effort required to transform complex ideas into compelling stories. Businesses that invest in PR to help them do this – whether in-house or through an agency –  can curate a stronger brand identity and better-position themselves for commercial success.

For businesses with more technical products or services, stripping away the nuts and bolts of what you do and focusing on why you exist is key. 

Sian Bradshaw

Account Manager

About the author

Sian joined CRC back in 2020 after reading English at the University of Cambridge, with varied experience in student journalism, project management and youth engagement. Since then, she has worked with a variety of the agency’s clients in the tech, business and finance sectors, and now works as an account manager, where she crafts innovative, targeted communications strategies for her accounts.


News & Updates

Meet the City Road Comms team: Sian Bradshaw

Sian Bradshaw joined City Road Comms (CRC) back in February 2020. She had recently completed a BA in English at the University of Cambridge, and had been working as a project assistant within the Bolton NHS Trust. From her first interview, it became clear that Sian had in abundance the intelligence, creativity and passion to succeed in the comms industry. 

That said, it was hardly the smoothest transition into life with the agency – nor into the world of PR and comms. Just a month after relocating to London and joining CRC, the UK entered its first Covid lockdown.

Nevertheless, despite the challenges the pandemic presented, Sian’s progression within CRC has been speedy; a testament to her exceptional work ethic and professionalism, and the quality of the results she has delivered for her clients. Within two years, Sian had risen from communications executive to account manager, with a short stint as an account executive along the way. 

Today, Sian leads on several major fintech accounts, developing a deep understanding of trends like Banking-as-a-Service, embedded finance and dynamic lending, not to mention the movements of financial markets. Now based back in her home city of Liverpool, Sian visits our London office most months. 

Keep reading to find out more about Sian, and her views on CRC and what it’s like working in PR and comms. 

What attracted you to work in PR and comms?

There are a few aspects of the PR and communications that drew me in. On a very basic level, I love to talk. Whether it’s about a major political event or something mundane that’s captured the media’s attention, keeping up with current affairs and having conversations with different people about everything that’s going on in the world is one of my favourite things about the job. 

My educational background is in English literature, so working in PR means that I’m able combine this with my passion for storytelling, which definitely helps when you’re looking for reactive commentary opportunities first thing on a Monday morning.

What do you enjoy about working at CRC?

The best thing about working at City Road Comms is the team. We’re a small, but lively team of people and we’ve grown significantly over the past year. Everybody is lovely and incredibly hard-working – you can always rely on somebody to pitch in to support on a busy campaign or offer their perspective on a press release you’ve been mulling over for a while.

What one piece of advice would you give to a startup founder wanting to do their own PR?

Whenever you’re thinking of going public with an announcement, it’s important to cut the jargon and think about the “why” behind your press releases. 

When you’re putting all your time and energy into getting a new business or product off the ground, it can be tempting to launch straight into technical lingo and lose sight of the bigger picture. However, journalists will give you more credit for explaining your proposition and how it is tackling a pertinent problem in simple, compelling terms. The founders that can explain the broader appeal of their product and how it impacts their customers without being too technical are able to foster better relationships with the media when building their brand.

What’s the worst thing about working in PR?

Because of the fast-paced nature of the job, sometimes a journalist at a big publication will reach out with an opportunity that is perfect on the surface, but the timings might not quite line up with a spokesperson’s availability or expertise, or they might want you to disclose facts and figures that you’re not legally able to share yet. In these situations, it’s nobody’s fault, but it can be disappointing!

What website do you visit the most?

It’s difficult to pin down just one, but if I had to, I would say I read The Times the most to make sure I have the fullest and most accurate picture of what’s happening in the world. That said, I write a lot about financial services and fintech, so I often look to the likes Sifted and the Financial Times to make sure I’m up to date on the latest trends.

What is the last book you read or listened to?

‘Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism’ by Amanda Montell. It’s a pop linguistics book about the sorts-of-cults people join every day and the linguistic tactics that brands use to reel us in and create a sense of community. It has an interesting mix of criticism, anecdotes, interviews and research; it really made me think about how deliberately brands like Peloton use language to gain a cult-like following, and the buzzwords we hear when politicians speak.

What is your coffee order?

Nice and easy – normally a flat white!

Sian Bradshaw

Account Manager

About the author

Sian joined CRC back in 2020 after reading English at the University of Cambridge, with varied experience in student journalism, project management and youth engagement. Since then, she has worked with a variety of the agency’s clients in the tech, business and finance sectors, and now works as an account manager, where she crafts innovative, targeted communications strategies for her accounts.


News & Updates