They’ll think I’m stupid
In meeting any expert, I immediately find that they clearly love what they do and, rightly so, are very proud of their accomplishments. Face-to-face, they make complete sense. They speak in layman’s terms, they explain difficult concepts, and seek confirmation that I have understood their explanation.
If I ask them to put their thoughts on paper, the tables are completely turned.
The written communications of a technical expert are often technical; highly technical. The terminology they use is specific, descriptive and correct. The article is lengthy, although the construct is methodical. But, quite frankly, the only people who can understand what they have written are other technical experts – in their field.
If the only people who can digest their prose are others just like them, then our marketing goals are lost.
This disparity perplexed me and has, at times, been quite frustrating. I have asked many a time “why is it so?” and have been provided with similar answers from a range of different technical experts. Their response has essentially been:
“They’ll think I’m stupid.”
In ‘dumbing down’ their article, they are wary of what their peers will think of them. Having developed a revered reputation, this is a serious concern and must be dealt with sensitively.
I work with many professionals who are high level, technical experts. When we work together, I am drawing out their knowledge and turning it into educational resources for their clients, patients or referral partners. By working in this field for some time, I have tailored my approach to resolve both the complexity of technical specialists and publishing their content with sensitivity to both the expert and their audience.
Here’s what I’ve found:
Understand your audience
As a marketer or copywriter, you must put yourself in the shoes of the expert. Their reputation is a serious issue. They have dedicated their lives to their area of interest and become revered experts. Their articles don’t need ‘dumbing down’, they need to be cognisant of the reader.
Discuss their audience
Discuss the audience that will be reading the article with your technical expert. Talk about their audience using real clients and see if the terminology fits or if the layman’s explanation is more appropriate.
Ask for explanation
When this is agreed upon, sit with your technical expert to go through their article. Ask them to explain each term and write exactly what they say.
Edit the article
Re-write the parts of the article that need updating. Use their own words – those you drew out of your expert during your meeting.
Go through the updated article again
Go through the article with them again. Make sure that they are comfortable with the changes and discuss how this new resource will be used in marketing their expertise.
Present the results
When their article gains traction, show them the results. Engagement is always pleasing and this will re-affirm the journey you have taken them on.
This may seem very time consuming, but this approach acts as an education for your technical expert too. They are learning to have consideration of their audience, not just their profession. You are sharing your expertise with them, to gain an improved outcome from your marketing efforts. Over time, the time you invest in each new technical resource will reduce, as your technical experts write for their audience.