The Abstract Noun Disease

Technology trends come and go - and using technical jargon is tempting in order to show that you are on the edge of things. But the PR and communication industry has a responsibility to stay awake and don't get caught with the Abstract Noun Disease.

We are so eager to take on any new emerging technology trend that we often miss what the story really is about. The abstractions become balloons drifting away from the audience.

Take Big Data for example, an area to watch 2012 according to industry analysts. The term itself attempts to pinpoint that we are dealing with very large volumes of data. But it can be interpreted in many other ways.

During the spring of 2012, we did a Big Data survey for a client among large organizations in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. The result clearly showed that many did not fully understand Big Data and the potential of including variable data from external and web based sources. And "analysis" meant full decision support for some - and printing ordinary reports for others. 

As within many other professions, concrete nouns are replaced by more abstract nouns in the tech industry. When talking to colleagues with the same knowledge set, that works well. But when communicating more broadly, you risk loosing or confusing the audience entirely. 

It is tempting to embrace new trends. Most of us remember the IP hysteria at the end of the last century. The term "IP" in a press release indicated that the company knew what they were talking about. And that the then prevailing stock value should be increased even more... 

The challenge for PR and communication professionals is - as always - to take the out-side-in-perspective. To clarify and exemplify what you are talking about. And to vaccinate the stream of new PR and communication colleagues from the Abstract Noun Disease. 

Mikael Westmark
CEO of Westmark Information