Monday, March 12, 2012

Levels of Expertise.

If you practice PR, to be credible and useful, you must be ready to approach your subject from a certain perspective and level of expertise. Defining that level is not an easy task in the more arcane technologies that we work with. Our clients and our audiences have the right to know from what lofty plane you are preaching, and therein lies the credibility gap.

As mere PR practitioners, we are not expected to understand what the product manager took several years of study to discover, and yet they will expect us to take in the data and sell it with the same aplomb to their customers. A good PR person can sit through a one hour presentation, grasp the major points and turn around and feed them back in perfect prose. The number of times we have heard compliments along the lines of "I could not have said it better myself".  Often we have the impression that it is a parlor trick based on years of experience on our part.

On the other hand, walking a river that is a mile wide and an inch deep in no big deal. The trick is to realize two things, when to get out of the water because you stand on the abyss of your vast ignorance and, have you identified that fearless river boat captain that will take over your leaky tub and steer it to its destination safely without considering us to be the dilettantes that we really are.

This where two very distinct skills very often come in conflict.  Our innate ability to attract, interest and deliver useful information is based on intangibles such as how well we know the audience (Editor, reporter, conference) and are able to deliver interesting and entertaining information. They listen because of who you are. When you hand over to the expert you elevate the discussion from entertainment to actionable items.

If your expert is as boring as a beetle, then the pass may fail and you will become the expert you never expected to be. There was a time in the early PC days when CPM roamed the earth and we were all expected to be programmers, when it was a necessity to be able to have internal knowledge of your product. That time is long gone and no one has to be a mechanic to drive a car.

But a word of serious advice, always remain curious about whatever you are promoting. The more you know the better you will be able to impress. In the world of PR, much of what we do is based on that slim aura of being "in the know" and being the gatekeeper to further information.

Final thought, it is amazing how quickly you can fall off the knowledge wagon simply by not paying attention. I missed the whole social media thing because I looked away for a year while a friend of mine has become one of the leaders in that movement.

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