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In Native Advertising Discussions and Content, Speak in Layman’s Terms

It’s likely that you’ve never heard someone use the term “thought leader” in everyday life, but what about in a native advertising discussion or article?

If you’re inserting words into your content that have no meaning to your potential customers, just don’t.

In journalism school, professors would roll their eyes whenever they caught us using jargon in our writing. A former editor of mine took it a step further by lecturing me about it every time he found it in a story. It wasn’t long before I got the message and stopped using it.

Consumers are trained to be skeptics when it comes to believing marketing messages. It’s exactly why native advertising is growing so rapidly — expected to account for 74% of total U.S. display ad revenue by 2021, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau — because the content is informative rather than promotional, allowing consumers to read it without the skepticism.

I recently interviewed a content marketing professional for a native advertisement she was sponsoring who talked about the importance of language in marketing and branding. She used the native advertising example of a yoga studio that promises to “empower” its clients and why that kind of language has little to no impact on potential customers.

“’Empower’ — that means nothing. Tell me I’m going to get stronger, that I’m going to sleep better,” she said. “If you know your ideal client, maybe they have trouble sticking to a routine, or sleeping, or they’ve gained weight. Those are the things that would speak to them.”

A New York University study in 2011 found that abstract language leads people to believe the person using it is lying. In 2012, Insights in Marketing research found that only 26% of 3,500 survey respondents found advertisers and marketers to be trustworthy.

So, if skepticism is already a challenge marketers must overcome, why invent language that further fuels it? Why do we use the term “thought leader” when what we’re trying to say is “expert?” Maybe inventing a more official-sounding term makes us feel smarter, but what it’s also sure to do is aggravate people and impede communication.

Richard Branson, founder at Virgin Group, wrote in a Linked In blog post about his distaste for jargon. It slows things down, confuses people and causes them to lose interest, he wrote.

If our standards for editorial and native advertising content don’t allow jargon, let’s also apply that thinking to our sales and marketing strategies. With effective communication across the board, from marketers to consumers, everyone benefits and nobody feels left out of the discussion.


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Lauren Glendenning

Written by Lauren Glendenning

Lauren Glendenning is the director of sponsored and native content at Colorado Mountain News Media. Lauren is a passionate journalist with a love for travel, Formula 1 racing, snow sports and Sunday brunches. With a journalism background and more than a decade of experience in content creation, she loves the challenge in applying her skills to develop strong content marketing campaigns for advertisers in mountain resort markets.

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