3 Mistakes to Avoid When Marketing and Promoting Scientific, Legal or Technical Products or Services

Have you ever been listening to the radio or watching television when an egghead or brainiac starts talking about the great new technology product that his/her company has developed? Did you keep listening, or did the featured egghead get bogged down in too many complicated scientific big words and concepts making you change the channel as fast as possible. You know you may have just missed out on finding out about a great new product or service that could save you thousands of dollars or extend your life by 100 years. But you and the thousands of other potential customers and clients will never know because you changed the channel.

It is important to recognise that scientists, lawyers, engineers and technologists don’t always make the best spokesperson for the promotion of a product in the media. A good technical communicator will be able to cut through jargon and explain in simple terms, concepts important to promoting a product. Many science and technology companies send a press release before they prepare their strategy for an effective media campaign. There are 3 main mistakes that companies make when approaching the media to promote a new scientific or technical product or service.

Mistake #1 – Using complicated Scientific Jargon and concepts

Mistake #2 – Failing to prepare a technical sales communication plan

Mistake #3 – Using only one media channel to promote the product or service

Avoid Using Complicated Scientific Jargon & Concepts

Your potential customer or client needs to be able to understand quickly what the product or service is, and how it will benefit them. No point showing up for your media opportunity and losing everyone on your first sentence. For example, if you are a company who has developed a new water filter for use in the home, don’t lead with technical information like this;

“The new water micro-filtration system has a 1 micron sediment pre-filter in a superfine polypropylene cartridge and a 0.4 micron carbon super block, superior post-filter with heavy metal removal technology.”

While this technical description might be important to the functioning of the product or create a point of difference, this information does not help your target customer make an informed choice about the product and how it relates to them. Instead, you should use uncomplicated words and refer to concepts which are aimed towards your target customer’s level of understanding. For example;

“Our new in-home water filter will give you unlimited clean and clear water guarding your family against all kinds of bacterial and chemical contamination.”

To provide the best chance that media will pick up your press release, you need to be able to share information about the benefits of filtering your water and provide some education for viewers or listeners about common contaminants in unfiltered water.

Effective Technical Communication relies on Planning

Before you can address the last two mistakes that I have listed, it is essential to identify a good technical communicator either inside or outside your company. Engaging a specialist technical communications consultant is both efficient and cost effective. Your specialist consultant can also assist in other areas by working with you to prepare an integrated scientific and technical sales, communication and promotions plan and provide training and education for your scientists on effective communication techniques for writing and the media.

The Long Wait is Over

So the long wait is over. A-Level results are out. Congratulations if you have achieved your goals. And good luck if you are still waiting to hear about your post-A-Level destiny.

Two over-riding themes emerge from this year’s bunch of results: the ever-improving grades achieved (including the awarding of the new A* grade this year) and the shortage of university places available for this year’s cohort, both of which are cited as evidence of at best a sign of desperate times, at worst a failed education system.

What of the first, the notion commonly referred to as ‘Grade Inflation’? (I’ll look at university places in my next post).

The statistics

First, the statistics. Well, it was another record-breaking year of results. One in 12 A-level exams (8%) has been awarded the new A* grade (which, we believe is given to those who gain roughly 90% in their exams).

27% of entries have gained an A or A* grade and this rate is currently increasing at about 1% each year (26% achieved grade A last year, 25% the year before). The overall pass rate rose for the 28th year in a row, with 97.6% of entries gaining an E or above, up from 97.5% in 2009.


In my mind, a number of issues are at play here.

Firstly, let’s give some credit to the students. They are working harder, becoming more organised and better mentally equipped. They support each other, get help from parents and sometimes personal tutors. The web and great textbooks also help.

Secondly, don’t forget the teachers. Teaching methods are improving and this is assisted by new developments in the classroom, such as interactive whiteboards, a whole host of educational websites, and considerable expertise in these resources, as well as in the subject matter. Well done teachers.

There has also been some talk, particularly in these competitive times, of pupils choosing ‘softer’ subjects, in which they are more likely to rack up the number of A-Level points to move on to their institution of choice.

But I don’t think this is the end of the story.

As I’ve hinted already, there’s fierce competition out there. Pupils are realising that it’s a battle out there, and the best university places, or the best jobs, come from good grades. They see the incentives and they are prepared to work to get the rewards.

But I’m going to highlight one more factor, which I haven’t heard mentioned in the debate so far. I have done a lot of work for the exam boards over the years. Edexcel’s mathematics A-Level provides good, challenging questions, in about 12 different maths modules. The questions are quality-controlled, the examiners are tested, their work is scrutinised. In turn, the examiners’ supervisors are put through a rigorous qualification and testing procedure. The planning and the chain of command are almost militaristic.

But – and here’s the point – the exam papers are not necessarily too easy, they are too samey. Year after year, the question papers feature questions from the same topics, with only the numbers changing, the ordering of the parts or the words changed to alter the subject of the question. There is no imagination required to solve some of this stuff. Learn the technique and you know how to pass the exam. The teachers know this and a thorough analysis of the last 5 years’ past papers give them all the teaching material they need to ensure a good bunch of grades from their class.

It’s only exams like Cambridge University’s STEP papers and the Advanced Extension Award that really test the imagination, the inventiveness of our pupils.

In my mind, this is the way forward. Forget A* grades, A** grades, ad infinitum. Let’s change the exams. Edexcel and the other exam boards should put as much effort into devising a truly challenging set of exam papers each year as they do into ensuring a fair and unbiased system (which is, of course, also very important). Perhaps a little adjusting of the syllabus would be necessary.

The truly outstanding pupils would shine. An A grade at A-Level would be a true indication of excellence, one that would make us proud of the UK’s education system again.