Yesterday (ok, Thursday), I was describing why I think, in general, it’s hard to say what you mean. Or more aptly, why I think it’s hard for me (fear).
When you want to say what you mean as an expert on your site, you are trying to communicate your value proposition, your perspective on how you help solve an array of related problems.
The problem with experts is that you’re all new experts. That is, you are always leaning out over your current understanding. The more of an innovator you become, the further from the rest of us you get.
On that side, your side, you have all your content, what’s been kicked off as you evolve in a direction: solutions, related processes.
This would all be fine except that you are trying to communicate to a group of people who speak a wholly different language because they’re living in a different world: a world of problems.
You identify the audience problem once-ish and then go live in solutions
You identify a problem once. Common questions around the problem come up often. And so, occasionally, you update the way you think about the problem.
But for the most part, you feel like you get the problem, so it’s more like a place you left behind. And you now live elsewhere, more of a nomadic life working on solutions.
Meanwhile your audience still lives there, close to it, living with the problem.
As you move forward, you’re in a constant state of exploring, surrounding yourself with tools, other thinkers, borrowed ideas from other fields.
You live on the frontier. Your journey becomes more like designing a new world as you live in it.
Your audience’s problem space is home base
You go back sometimes: your audience’s problem space is home base.
But then for some of you, those not in constant communication with your audience, you can pick your head up and it’s like suddenly years have passed and you haven’t been home in a long time.
You forget the contours and edges and realness of that place you left behind, and now it’s more like a memory, one you think about often perhaps, but still a memory.
Meanwhile, clients are stuck with the problem in that place where time moves more slowly.
Aside: That’s why it’s hard for experts to get your content to perform, it’s the audience-problem expert-solution divide.
You are communicating from a place of having too much information with those who are forced to rely on too little information
Because you live this different life, you accumulate lots of new experiences, awareness, understanding, as that home base gets further and further away.
As a result, your mind becomes subject to the range of cognitive biases associated with having too much information, most popularly, the curse of knowledge.
This curse by nature means a lack of empathy.
Not in the sense that you aren’t an empathetic person – but in the sense that you can’t know someone else’s mental model without more deeply understanding things about them that don’t come up without lots of (continuous) communication, without prying.
On the audience side, it’s an opposite range of biases, those hinged on having too little information.
To you, it’s like they’ve lived in the same place their whole life, and everyone went to the same high school, and they married their high school sweetheart, and everyone goes to the same church.
And now you come home and you’re trying to meet them where they are, have a meaningful conversation with them, and speak their language.
For them, the lack of knowledge they have about the journey you’ve been on forces them to over rely on, often, bad signals.
This can go wrong so many ways.
You can use terms you picked up they’ve never heard. You can find yourself coming off like you’re better than they are. Like you’re right and they’re wrong. You can start feeling like you have nothing in common anymore. Like you’re off doing cool stuff and they’re not moving.
Things like the info they first find (anchoring bias) on a topic, or being drawn to common advice (bandwagon effect), or choosing what they perceive to be the lowest risk option (zero-risk bias) are the landmines they have to deal with.
It’s like all the cognitive biases can be categorized as too much info or too little info, and you’re on one side and your audience is on the other.
And so we need to keep the communication constant or have a plan for re-mapping problems to solutions. A good way to do that is by organizing your content with an awareness of your users.