From mess to less: How to simplify the complex

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Certainly, to simplify the complex in content strategy is necessary. So many things are complex, and that complexity can’t be played back in every type of content asset. That’s why simplification matters, But we also don’t want to oversimplify things. But what’s the difference, and how do we know where we land? So let’s dive into that topic.

In this article, I cover the following:

What is simplification?

A lot of topics and areas are complicated. And that doesn’t always translate into good storytelling if we share everything at once and as a whole. That’s where simplification comes in. Simplification, in theory, is an easy concept. At the core, we take a lot of information or complicated information and boil it down to explain it more succinctly.

For example, the game story from the football game is the simplification of what happened during that game. The game has 100 snaps or something like that. But sports writers don’t discuss every snap in their story. Instead, they discuss the most important ones or the ones that the ones that have the most impact.

The same is true in business storytelling. We might interview a subject matter expert who gives us all this information. Some of it could be its own content assets. Others should be summarized or presented differently.

The key to getting simplification right is to find the points that are needed to share to get the story across in the best possible way.

Read next: How can we predict the future of marketing?

Why simplification is important

Simplification is essential because our target audience doesn’t have time to look through pages upon content pages. We have to make it simple for them. That means we have to simplify things for them to be able to comprehend the content in the short amount of time they have for it.

Simplifying content also gives companies a competitive advantage. People can only pay attention to so much stuff during the day, so getting to the point and being transparent can help companies close deals and build relationships faster.

At what point are we oversimplifying?

Oversimplifying things can happen intentionally or unintentionally. For example, some people might pick the facts that favor them and don’t even share the stuff that would shed light on the story’s entirety. In other words, oversimplification can also be misleading.

Oversimplification in content creation is often accidental. The word might not wholly describe what we’re trying to explain that otherwise would have been shared in five paragraphs. It is a challenge for content creators to make it easy for the audience while also being accurate. And accuracy in corporate content strategy does matter.

Read next: Prove it! How marketers earn trust.

The steps to simplify the complex

We can use steps to avoid oversimplification and simplify content in an accurate and engaging way. Let’s discuss them, including:

Understanding the topic

To simplify things correctly, it is important to understand the topic we’re creating content around. That doesn’t mean the content creator has to be an expert at the topic, but they have to learn the intricacies, and they have to learn the language and the verbiage people use.

Using the correct terminology is so important because it shows that you understand the topic.  Here’s an example when I didn’t. I was in an Uber once in Nashville, and my driver said he was a musician, and I almost said “oh, what industry?” That would be an excellent question if he were talking about starting a business, but it’s not called industry in music. It’s called genre.

In this case, there’s no business impact on me. Still, there can be a credibility issue when you constantly use the wrong terminology for the industry in which you’re creating content.

Read next: What’s helpful content anyway?

Building a relationship with the expert

Indeed, we can’t be perfect when we start creating content in a new industry. That’s where relationships come in, especially with the subject matter experts we’re interviewing. Explain to them the process and explain that you’re more than willing for their feedback and that you welcome it.

It’s not always a given that good content feedback actually will happen in a corporate environment. And on the flip side, sometimes there’s too much feedback from people that don’t know what they’re talking about. But in our case of simplifying just the right amount, it is essential to build that relationship with the expert to help you pick the right words and then the most succinct words to get the message across.

The skill set to pick the highlights worth sharing

It is a skill to distill something complex into content that’s easy to understand and follow. That certainly includes writing skills and listening skills, And maybe most importantly, questioning skills. One way that has worked for me over the years to be to simplify content is by constantly asking questions, including:

  • What does that mean?
  • Why is that important?
  • What’s the impact of this?

Asking questions can help us understand how to present content after the content has been gathered. Another strategy I  have seen work is to have a conversation with good follow-up questions with the experts. For example, I often have an idea of how I might phrase something in an article. So instead of just going and doing it, I might restate what I heard the experts say in words close to how I might end up simplifying it.

That process helps the creator understand the content better and builds that relationship with the expert.

Read next: Content strategy: The importance of good source materials

Knowing how to edit and approve content that was simplified

Sometimes we might oversimplify something. It happens. Please don’t beat yourself up over it. That is what an editing and approval process is for. That’s why we ask people to review our content – to let us know if it’s OK and great or if a few changes need to be made.

That means we’re asking the correct people for feedback– the experts, the strategist, and perhaps a proofreader or editor.

From there, make sure people understand how to work together and edit collaboratively. Collaborative editing helps us get better, more accurate content and grow together as a team.

The audience

Understanding the audience is so important to simplify the complex correctly. What do they already know? How do they consume information? And also, what do they need to know?

Consider all these things as you are creating content for them.

The channels

Some channels are better than others to communicate with certain groups. Keep that in mind. Where does your particular audience prefer to get updates and in what format, which could include:

  • Short text
  • Audio (like an internal podcast)
  • Video
  • Etc.

Whether we like that things get simplified or not, it is a necessary step to get our content consumed. There is no way that everyone in a target audience can take the time out of their day to become an expert at everything of interest to them. It’s not possible. So for companies to stand out and reach all those potential customers, they have to simplify content. But, of course, the trick is not to oversimplify and ensure it is accurate.

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