Jargony jargon, transparent business and your audience

I’ve been enjoying following the growth of Buffer, a service that lets you schedule and track social media posts. The thing that interests me is the way that they are choosing to build their business, which appears to mostly be through an application of content marketing that is so strong that I think I’ll use it as a case in my grad strategy class in the spring. 

In addition to doing a great job of building community with users who choose to interact with them online, the founders maintain social media posts, the company populates several blogs and will even send you a newsletter about business decisions and how they are working out. It’s very interesting to watch – pretty much a 360 from the business model of secrecy that a lot of organizations use. The strategy can serve to both convey trust to prospective users and to feed current and interest prospective investors.

The most recent blog post on their “Open” blog interested me mostly because it is very jargon-heavy for someone who doesn’t have business training. There are quite a few acronyms, used before they are defined, and terms like “de-risking the founders” that you’d have to have specialist knowledge to understand.

The Open blog, dedicated to transparency, has a mix of pieces, mostly designed to do the job of content marketing – to build trust by giving value to the reader. But in a stream of accessible articles on creativity, persistence and life hacking, the articles on developer projects and business growth seem to be created for a much more targeted audience (although they vary in tone from month to month).

It brings up an important concept in strategic communication – consistency. It’s something legacy media generally did pretty well. Teams of editors or producers would work to have a common level of vocabulary, complexity and tone across pieces, while allowing for the voice of the writer to be evident. In more flexibly managed or rapidly evolving organizations, it can be a challenge. 

One thing I suggest to my writing students is that they use some focus questions about the audience to plan the style of writing needed, both for single pieces and across everything:

  • What do they already know?
  • What do they want to know?
  • How do they prefer to learn things?

For the strategic communicator, it’s easy to think about what I want the audience to know. And that’s important to me. But if I don’t focus on the audience, I can lose some opportunities. 



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