Maybe it's watching late night television (Stephen Colbert, John Stewart and Bill Maher are my guys) or maybe it's eight years of soundbite journalism. But lately as I write proposals and talk to clients I find myself asking the simplest of questions and not getting clear answers to the basics of their businesses.
Remember when Colbert asked the senator who had introduced legislation to put the Ten Commandments into school curriculum and he couldn't name them? How mortifying was that? Years ago when I asked my ex-husband, an MIT PhD in political science, what his doctoral dissertation was about I got a 20 minute explanation. By the time he finished it almost a decade later - we'd whittled it down to less than a sentence - "It's about the impact of non-profits like Save the Whales on international politics."
When we search Google or Dogpile or whatever search engine we use we get explanations - most groups now have a Wiki. But why isn't the Wiki or at least the link to the Wiki on their Web sites? Has anyone thought to ask?
Here are just a few questions I've typed in lately and not been able to get an answer for - from sites that belong to the largest groups representing these specialties.
What is neuroscience?
What is a psychologist?
What is a podiatrist?
What is technical education?
What is an obstetrician?
Sorry scientists - if you cannot tell me within one or two clicks what it is you do I am gone. It would be very positive to say that people get so involved in what they do - and so caught up in their industries - that they think everyone knows what they are. But it's more complicated than that. People don't think about making the complex simple. And so they can't communicate with the general public. How can you have public understanding if you can't explain clearly? You cannot.
The big question of course is how can you effectively market when you can't explain and aren't educating as you go. The answer is you will never get beyond your core market - and most of us - particularly in these days of social networking absolutely want too.
Most people have an elevator speech (a 1-3 sentence explanation) of what they do. But they don't have it for what their specialty is.
To be fair I've had to develop my own too. My elevator speech - I take complex, scientific and technical information and making it accessible to everyone. What is communications? It's explaining who you are, what you do, why you're better at it, and why they should hire you - at every point at which you connect with a customer or prospect.
If you have good public relations people then you should have all of this - and it should be part of your media training and messaging. I used to work with a really good media guy and I remember when he took a one page fact sheet explaining the Components Packaging and Manufacturing Technology Association's products and turned it into we're the people who make the chips that run many of the products you use. We're the Intel Inside of everything. We get it.
So go on your Web site and search your area of expertise? Is it explained? Could your fifth grader get it?
That's my thought for the day.