Switching jargon for haiku: how the financial services sector communicates with young people

October 30, 2019 • 3 minute read

The past decade has seen an endless proliferation of buzzwords and the wholesale development of jargon in the corporate world, not only causing a headache for those of us working in communications that have to unravel such language but actively creating a barrier between businesses and their audiences. Unfortunately, this trend shows no sign of abating and those working in PR will need to meet the challenge head-on.

Using jargon can often get in the way of executing an effective communications strategy, especially when communicating with prospective clients/customers or journalists who, in particular, are known to dislike ‘corporate speak’. Indeed, Simon English of the Evening Standard now has a new section in his daily newsletter ‘Tomorrow’s Business’ where he dissects and mocks commonly used corporate jargon. Whilst many journalists may have an issue with it, corporate jargon can be useful when communicating with clients so those working in PR should learn when to use it and when to keep it internal. This lesson is even more important when applied to industries where jargon seems to be a huge barrier to communicating with key stakeholders.

The financial services sector is one of those areas where the language used by industry experts can be seen as off-putting or difficult to understand. To the uninitiated financial services can be complicated enough, so this extra layer of buzzword bingo can have a particularly negative impact – especially when companies in finance are trying to educate audiences on how to manage their money.

The Millennial Money Survey – a study of over 4,000 UK adults aged 18-35, found that two thirds did not have savings or investments in place to help them to achieve their life ambitions and that 30 per cent felt a lack of knowledge or understanding about the options available to them had stopped them from investing or saving. Up to 7.8 million people risk missing out on a brighter future because they don’t hold any long-term saving or investment products. This also means 7.8 million potential customers failing to be educated and serviced.

This is where the PR industry can come into play and provide the language and communication strategies necessary to encourage young people to invest and save.

Recent efforts from the government to encourage employees to save for their retirement by introducing auto-enrolment have undoubtedly resulted in progress but according to industry experts this is not enough – millennials who want to retire at the same age as their grandparents will have to save an extra £80,000, according to the latest retirement forecasts. Whilst campaigns warning against cold callers selling investment advice and products over the phone have been successful and are hard hitting, there have been few effective campaigns encouraging millennials to think about their future. Plugging PR experts into public and private-led campaigns from the offset can not only ensure campaign communications are easily understood and engaging but can also lead to more creative approaches that will genuinely connect with audiences.

This seems to have been taken on board by firms and media operating in the financial services space.  In 2018 Finimize launched a daily newsletter that was designed to encourage investing among young people by breaking down industry jargon. Their latest product, an app, is designed for use during morning commutes and tackles subjects like initial public offerings, exchange-traded funds and ethical trading. Similar newsletters from news sites such as Quartz offer a way for readers to ingest short, snappy pieces of financial news which otherwise would go unnoticed and unread – their market Haiku poems are a surprisingly excellent way of understanding market fluctuations.

Perhaps this is the way forward, offering younger people easily digestible content that the industry can use to spark initial interest. This may mean changing the way press releases are written if younger audiences are the primary target, to produce announcements that are shorter and more informative.

Creating audience-specific communications strategies will ensure the right language is used in the right circumstances. The financial services sector needs to come around to this way of thinking if it is to win over young customers, particularly in the world of investing and retirement. Biting the tongue before speaking with young audiences is a good way to start.