When Expertise Hurts

Among the many reasons a company should engage a communications firm, is the very real benefit of an independent, outside perspective. We often act as an “honest broker” with clients, bridging the gap between what the client wants to say, and what resonates with their audiences.

One of the greatest experiences a communications professional can have is working with a client that is a true expert in their field, who can dig into the details of a complex business or product. However, that same expertise can sometimes work against them.

Recently, we spoke with a company seeking to promote a product to a mass audience. They had created an informative website that described the product accurately and had a fairly thorough Q&A document. The problem was that the description was so boring and off-putting that many interested readers would never make it through the text.

Again, the problem had nothing to do with accuracy. It was that the copy was written by someone with intimate knowledge of the product and industry, for a similarly sophisticated audience. They used industry lingo when simpler language was available and delved right into the more esoteric characteristic of the product before providing a straightforward answer. To an expert, it made perfect sense, but to an outsider, it seemed designed to frustrate.

This same dynamic can occur in interview settings. Today, editorial staffs are stretched more than ever before and reporters are covering multiple sectors, so they may not have a deep understanding of the company’s business or product. That’s why we spend time preparing our clients by developing talking points tailored to the interviewer and outlet, and even conducting mock interviews. A good rule of thumb we often use is “talk like you would explain it to your mother.” That mindset can often help spokespeople focus in on the most critical information and communicate it to a less-informed audience.

Expertise is great, but only when it enhances, rather than obstructs, good communication.

Tom Faust

Photo via Flickr account FutUndBeidl

2018-03-13T13:58:26-04:00 September 8th, 2014|Categories: Media Relations|Tags: , , , |