PR professionals are often required to transform subject matter experts – scientists, academics, researchers – into effective messengers. These experts possess deep knowledge in their respective fields, but they often struggle to articulate complex concepts in a way that’s easy for the general public to understand. Bluetext believes three key strategies help SMEs share their knowledge in a manner that captivates their audience.
Encourage them to Tell Stories and Use Analogies
Our brains are wired for stories. While facts and figures are crucial within academic or scientific circles, only standout statistics engage wider audiences. Individual stories and relatable analogies make the nuances of an expert’s work more tangible.
PR professionals must encourage experts to transform their knowledge into stories. Analogies, for example, can break down complex topics into familiar concepts that audiences can understand and connect with. It’s about presenting information in a way that is not just intellectually digestible, but also emotionally resonant.
Below, the technical explanation gives accuracy at the expense of comprehension, while the analogy aids understanding and relatability.
Before: “Solar panels convert the sun’s energy into electricity through photovoltaic cells. When photons hit the cells, they knock electrons free from atoms. If conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides of a cell, it forms an electrical circuit. When electrons flow through such a circuit, they generate electricity.”
After: “Think of a solar panel as a plant in your garden. Just as a plant uses sunlight for photosynthesis to produce food, a solar panel uses sunlight to produce electricity. The ‘leaves’ of our solar panel – the photovoltaic cells – catch the sunlight and kickstart a process that generates electricity for your home.”
Don’t Dumb it Down, Balance it Out
It’s crucial not to dumb down complex concepts when training SMEs as effective messengers. The goal is to respect the audience’s intelligence while ensuring comprehension. This balance is best achieved by delving into specifics when necessary and providing a general overview where it isn’t.
For instance, when discussing an advanced software tool, an expert might briefly explain its mechanics, then elaborate on the real-life scenarios where it could enhance work productivity.
Before: “We use a high-transmittance, anti-reflective glass, encased with anodic oxidation aluminum alloy frame for our solar panels. These are embedded with mono-crystalline silicon solar cells, which are highly efficient.”
After: “High-transmittance, anti-reflective glass allows a lot of light to pass through and reduces light reflection, which is ideal for solar panels. Anodic oxidation aluminum alloy is a sturdy, corrosion-resistant material used to frame the panels, and mono-crystalline silicon solar cells are highly effective cells made from a single crystal structure that converts sunlight into electricity,
Above, the ‘before’ message is laden with technical terms that a non-expert may not understand. In the ‘after’ message, the expert takes a more balanced approach by explaining these terms in easily understood language that identifies each material’s role in the system.
Practice with the Expert
As with any skill, effective messaging needs practice. Before an interview or presentation, PR professionals should work with the expert to define their key messages, prepare responses to likely questions, and identify topics to avoid.
Practice sessions serve dual purposes. They help experts gain confidence in delivering their messages and also assist them in refining their responses. Through iterative practice, experts can identify and focus on the most important elements of their responses, ensuring they deliver succinct, impactful answers when interacting with reporters or audiences.
Training experts to be effective messengers isn’t always a straightforward task. But by encouraging storytelling, balancing technical information, and emphasizing key messages, you can help them communicate their knowledge in a way that resonates with a wider audience. The transformation from expert to an engaging speaker is well worth the effort and maybe the difference between just getting an interview and receiving airtime, or even better – an invite back.
Take a look at some of Bluetext’s past work to see how client subject matter experts have been able to unlock their knowledge for a wider base and deliver powerful messages to the audiences that need to hear them most. Are you in need of a marketing and public relations agency with the skills to bring out those messages and take them to market? Contact us today.