Simplifying Complex Information
March 6, 2015
March 6, 2015
At Solomon McCown, we work with clients that are experts in their fields and they rely on us to communicate complex messaging to a broader audience. Whether it’s explaining how the Affordable Care Act affects immigration law or educating lawmakers about needed changes to complicated zoning laws, we spend countless hours turning our clients’ complex issues into easily digestible content.
Below are a few tricks of the trade:
Ask questions to unsuspecting sources: I once heard about a defense attorney who explained complex scientific processes to a kindergarten class. Why? If she could spell out the issue so a kindergartner could comprehend it, she could certainly describe it to a jury. Understanding the questions people may have about a topic can help you determine what people do and don’t understand before you even start writing.
Research and understand the issue: This seems like common sense, but sometimes this step gets skipped. To be able to translate complex issues into simplified terms requires an in-depth understanding of the issue. Writing a byline in support of a piece of legislation? Don’t just read the fact sheet – read the bill, read about the issues or situations that sparked its creation, research its history and understand the law it is changing. Do your homework. You cannot expect others to understand the issue if you don’t.
Consider both sides: No issue is ever one-sided, especially the more complex it gets. To really understand the topic, dive into what both the opposition and the supporters have to say. Get inside your opponents’ heads and see it from their perspective. Not only will you be able to understand the issue, but you’ll be able to defend your client’s position on it that much better.
Understand your audience: Regardless of what you are trying to communicate, it is important to know your target audience. When communicating a particularly complex issue, you need to go one step further and really understand whom you’re addressing. Trying to reach policymakers? Think about whether you are targeting a new elected official or a long-time committee chair. Your perspective audience’s knowledge level makes a huge difference in how much background and education you need to provide. Too much information to a seasoned veteran can come across condescending while too little to a newbie will leave them confused, and more likely to ignore your issue.
Breaking down complex information can seem daunting, but if you follow these best practices, you’ll be communicating clearly in no time.