This article originally appeared in our weekly ‘Industry Roundup Newsletter’ that goes out every Friday to marketers around the world. Join them by adding your details here.

Are you using fat words? I was introduced to the concept this week and, well, once you spot one fatty, you start to see them everywhere. What constitutes a fat word? Well…

A fat word is one which can be open to interpretation. A word is fat when 10 smart business-savvy people can sit in a room and have 10 different definitions. Here’s one to get you started…

Marketing.

I may say to you that marketing is the practice of generating demand for a product of service, you may say it’s about people and behaviour change while our FD may say that it’s about ‘ordering brochures’ and ‘stop getting above yourselves, you two’.  

Here’s another – Content

When we talk about content at Future Content we’re generally talking about blogs. Speak with a webdev and they’ll think you’re talking about all of the content on the site – from the images and web copy through to the contact forms and privacy statements. Emails, social posts – they’re content too. If everything is content, how useful is the label?

Two issues that fat words present us.

If we’re talking marketing objectives and strategy with that stuffy old FD, and we think marketing is about behaviour change and she thinks its ordering brochures, when we get to planning and budgeting, we’re going to have some problems.

Agreeing on how you – as a business and as a leadership team – define a term like marketing (or whatever your industry-specific fat word is), matters more than the definition itself. With internal consensus on these terms, setting objectives and strategies becomes an awful lot easier.

The second issue is communicating with your audience. If internally you call blogs ‘content’ and other content ‘web copy’, ‘email copy’, ‘social posts’ etc, that’s fine, but be very deliberate and take the time to explain why you call it that. This is the opportunity for you to differentiate and bring prospects inline with your thinking.

An example. Rare Design (client), a packaging design agency,  developed the concept of Organic Ideation as a way of explaining their design process. Through a series of blogs we developed the theory and, eventually, an ebook was born.

Organic Ideation is a new term which brings together different practices that Rare Design were already doing. By taking the time to define the terms they not only brought clarity to the team, but also had a way of differentiating themselves in the highly competitive sector they’re in.

Take a moment to think of the ‘fat’ words are you and your leadership team using – could it be the lack of clarity on the meaning of fundamental words like ‘marketing’ that’s holding back your planning efforts?

And what fat words are you using to communicate to your audience? Is there an opportunity to develop your own terms and bring prospects around to your way of thinking, of doing?

The words we use matter. If you’re not defining what your words mean, someone else will.

Image credit

Dawn Huczek, via Flickr

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Tom is the founder of Future Content, a specialist content agency located in Bristol, UK. Tom is the winner of the 2016 'Acceler8' award for Entrepreneurial Leadership from RBS and Entrepreneurial Spark. You can find Tom on Twitter @HTSandford. If you ever visit Future Content's offices you'll find Tom near the table tennis table.

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