Re: Re; Technical marketing: starting up and finding info?

Subject: Re: Re; Technical marketing: starting up and finding info?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: inteltek -at- erols -dot- com, techwr-l digest recipients <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 11:45:41 -0700

Annamaria Profit <inteltek -at- erols -dot- com>

>There's another point too...technical marketing needs to be easier to
>read and more to the point than standard technical manuals.It needs to
>be both more reductive and obvious. From my experience, advertising and
>marketing copy also needs be succinct, memorable, and legal. I come out
>of the pharmaceutical industry...where claims are scrutinized by FDA and
>the medical community, highly regulated, and challenged regularly.
>Claims cannot even be made without supporting scientific studies. I
>think that same standard should be applied to all marketing and
>advertising copy. An unsubstantiated claim is not hype--it's a lie. And
>lies bring down the wrath of the US Govt and the American consumer
>advocacy machine on companies. Propagating marketing lies is commercial
>suicide. But if the product's advantages can be substantiated,
>showcasing is not "hype" (short for hyperbole), it's just flashy text! ;

I see what you mean, and agree with it. However, the same
standards should also apply to technical writing - both
rhetorically and legally.

You're right about the origins of "hype." However, just as "fan"
has escaped from "fanatic", so "hype" has escaped from
"hyperbole" to have a meaning of its own. I think that most
people view hype as a subtle form of misrepresentation that
amounts to a lie. Hype, in this sense, uses reductive,
ambivalent, or equivocating language to mislead, saying something
that is technically true, but creates a misleading impression. A
simple example is to say that there is a "phenomenal" demand for
a product that isn't selling: low sales are the phenomeon that is
being talked about, but the impression is that high sales are
being alluded to. A more subtle tactic is to use buzzwords and
cliches which tend to make the audience pay less attention, but
to come away with the feeling that what is being described is
radically new. All these things fall short of a literal lie, but
in intent and result, they might as well be a lie.

As you say, showcasing real advantages is legitimate. However,
the suspicion of hype is - quite rightly - so strong in many
audiences that if you are not trying to mislead, you have to use
understated language to gain a hearing. This is not really a
problem, however. Understatement leaves audience members to fill
in the blanks themselves, and this involvement can be a stronger
form of persuasion than hype. It actually encourages the audience
to do its job and evaluate your claims - which, if you're being
ethical, is what you want.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com | Tel: 604.421.7189

"The long memory is the most radical weapon in history."
- Bruce "Utah" Phillips

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