June 24, 2017

Run the B2B test

Are you using industry terms or in-house terms?

As I was conducting one-on-one writing coaching with a client recently, I noticed that he’d used the term “onboarding” without defining it in a press release for trade publications.

Huh? Run the B2B test

Talk the talk Use terms well-known in your industry to get your message across Image by maki maki

“Onboarding,” he told me, is an organization’s process for bringing new employees or vendors “on board.” And, while I wasn’t familiar with the term, he assured me that in his industry it was so common that it didn’t require a definition.

Fair enough. As a consultant to companies in, among other fields, the semiconductor, telecommunications and electrical utility industries, I’m used to being the only person in the room who doesn’t speak the language.

But let’s make sure, I said. Let’s run the B2B test.

Will your readers know the term?

The B2B — or business-to-business — test is a creation of Kelly Parthen, PR manager of Agilent Technologies. If you’re not sure whether a word is a well-known industry term, Parthen suggests that you:

  • Head to the website of one of the biggest B2B publications in your field.
  • Search for the term there.
  • If you can’t find it, chances are, it’s not a well-known industry term.

In my client’s case, “onboarding” was nowhere to be found on his industry’s major trade magazine’s site.

If that’s the case with your term, act as if none of your readers have ever heard it before. That means defining it on first reference — or, better, using the reader’s own language and dropping the unfamiliar, in-house term altogether.

  • Cut Through the Clutter

    Is your copy easy to read? According to communication experts, that’s one of the two key questions people ask to determine whether to read a piece — or toss it.

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