The Jargon Problem – Even Worse than we Thought?

The problem of company spokespeople spouting jargon, far from going away, may be even more of an issue that we’d thought.  If a survey commissioned by Santander is anything to go by, he general public’s understanding of financial industry terms is even more shaky than many had realised.  With a particular focus on the mortgage market, the report found that three-quarters of aspiring first-time homebuyers thought LTV stood for ‘long term value’ rather than ‘loan to value’, and was therefore related to a projected increase in value of the property over the lifetime of the mortgage.  Three-fifths thought ‘exchange’ meant the date of occupation of a property, rather than simply the exchange of contracts.
This suggests company spokespeople need to throw even more effort into thinking carefully about the language they use, particularly before any radio or TV interview aimed at a general consumer audience.  Our suggestion is to spend a few private minutes before the interview going through the points you might have to cover (out loud if possible), thinking carefully about how to put them in the language of the pub rather than the language of the boardroom.  Without being patronising, you can explain any industry terms as you go, such as “for the LTV or loan-to-value, which is the proportion of the purchase price you hope to borrow, we can see that …”  Finding the best way of achieving this clarity is something we regularly demonstrate on our media training courses.
Meanwhile Forbes magazine points out that there’s a deeper problem here. It reminds us of a 2011 study which showed that using complex language removes trust. In other words, if you use abstract statements, the person receiving the message is less likely to believe it.  That’s a pretty convincing reason on its own for a company front-person to be as plain-speaking as possible.  So, think about what industry terms you and your colleagues routinely use, and see if you can find alternatives.   if you have to use jargon – explain it.  If you can avoid it – do.

See more on our media training courses to help you get your message across as clearly as possible.