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Using plain English to share stories can be harder than it seems. Many industries and groups use jargon and acronyms that are used daily, but don’t make much sense to the general public.
Stories that are published should make sense to the general public. Especially stories published on our websites.
As organizations continue to move more and more toward telling authentic stories, as opposed to the more traditional messaging approach, communicator roles will continue to evolve into trainers and translators for subject matter experts.
That’s my prediction and opinion.
So, what do I mean by that?
Many organizations (past and present) have spokespeople, who do the public speaking/messaging for an organization. But they aren’t the subject matter experts. They might be really good at talking in soundbites, writing copy that has more of a mass audience appeal and other related PR skills.
But is that the best approach? I think that the definition of who is an organizations’ spokesperson, could be evolving over the next few years.
My prediction is that more organizations will turn to their subject matter experts to be the spokespeople. Communication teams will assist them in learning the skills and translating jargon into plain English.
In many organizations, historically, marketing/communications would gather the information that needs to be disseminated. Sometimes that’s done based on a reporter’s questions after an interview request.
The communications person would then go find the subject matter expert, ask the questions and then take the answers back to the reporter, who sometimes would then have a follow up question based on the answers. The PR person might not have the answer, but might decide to check with the expert again. As you may imagine this could go on for a while. And it’s probably not a very enjoyable situation for any of the three parties involved. The reporter is probably pushing deadlines and the interview is taking longer than it should, the PR person is getting tired of running back and forth and interrupting the expert, and the expert probably isn’t finding this the most productive use of time either.
Why do we even have spokespeople?
Probably because it’s easier to control the message when only one person is speaking publicly. And I do think there’s still a place for this. For example, in a large emergency situation.
Today, it’s hard to control any kind of message anyway. People do and say on social media whatever they want. They may blog about a topic that touches a business’ interests. And people may even read these things! Sometimes it’s shared. Every once on a while a story goes “viral.”
So, it’s important that everyone sees themselves as a spokesperson to a degree. Especially about their expertise area and the basics of an organization.
For example, people ask me all kinds of things about where I work. I should be able to answer many of those questions because I have a basic understanding of the organization, its mission and what it does. Most of those answers should be on an organization’s website, too.
How to communicate publicly
The key is that I can put my answers into my own words. If I can’t do that and, for example, just recite memorized marketing talking points, my message won’t be authentic or believable.
Only a person’s own words will come across as truly authentic and truthful.
Yes, some of us can fake it, but often that works only to a degree and won’t be sustainable.
Authenticity, true believability and clarity are sustainable and build relationships over the long term.