Let’s clarify from the very start; I’m not encouraging inappropriate behaviour! I don’t want to encourage us to kiss but to KISS – keep it simple stupid. An acronym made famous by the US Navy in the 1960’s and one that underlines what I feel all communicators have a duty to do.
During my career I’ve worked alongside doctors, researchers and scientists – professions characteristically intelligent and knowledgeable on specific topics. For a communications professional, they are a treasure trove of information and content, but they often come with a large barrier. The barrier is the belief that making it simple makes them stupid.
When trying to address this issue, I realised that I see simplicity as a way of being inclusive to all audiences. In contrast, their concern was on one particular audience; their peers. By “dumbing down” they believed their peers would begin to consider them dumb and they would lose credibility in their field.
What this says to me is that the concept of simplicity needs reputation management. We need to stop seeing it as a curse word and embrace the beauty that it is.
One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
The best communicators tell a story. We take the audience on a journey. But to get them to come with us, the content must seem interesting, insightful and, most importantly, understandable. Especially in this age, when we want things now, we only have a finite time to hook people in. If the precious few seconds we get come across as complicated, jargon-filled nonsense, we’re going to be passed over for something much more inciting.
Of course there will always be a time, and an audience, where detail is a necessity. Perhaps at a conference, in an academic journal, or even at the pub with colleagues – but this is often with an already interested audience and a lot of the hard work has already been done! Should we not be eager for our content to reach outside of those confines to reach as many people as possible? Especially in our social age where we have a global digital platform?
The most beautiful combination in communications is when simplicity is paired with passion. You only have to look at Professor Brian Cox OBE for the glorious, shining example of how simplicity can thrive. I know diddly-squat about physics but I know a lot more than I ever did thanks to him. Not only that, I want to know more because of him. I’m now an audience member for physics content as he has me hooked with his enthusiasm and ability to communicate with me at my level – that’s what we should all be aspiring to achieve!
That treasure trove I mentioned; it’s valuable and has a right and a need to be shared. To keep it all to ourselves is selfish (as long as it’s not copyrighted or competitive of course) and, as a communications professional, I see it as my role to share the treasure with as many people as I can in a way that they can access it. By combining it with passion we can bring in a new audience; a new generation perhaps to get excited with our content or a new customer who had never considered our brand applying to them before. By keeping it simple we can show that there is a place for all of us, regardless of the topic, and perhaps change opinions in the process.