That’s Basic Math
Jeremy Kartchner is a Partner at Snapp Conner PR and has more than 15 years experience in both technology and sports PR. In addition to his responsibilities with Snapp Conner PR, Kartchner also works with the Utah Jazz as a member of its Game Night public relations staff where he is responsible for tracking and providing game time statistics for local, national and international media and conducting pre and post game player and coach interviews. He’s a sports fan, golfer, father of three, husband to one hottie, partially bionic, cavity free, Olympics junkie and wanna be blogger.
Growing up, my best friend’s dad was a mechanical engineer. He studied around the country and had a number of advanced degrees. He was trained and had the expertise to do specific things within the aviation industry that very few in the country had.
He was very good at math and it was easy for him to calculate math problems in his head. It didn’t happen all the time, but often enough that we would be talking and he would calculate some math problem in his head. I remember wondering how he did it so easily. My mind was not built to do that. Math never really made sense to me. I always thought with the other side of my brain and I’m sure that’s why I ended up in my field instead of being an accountant or engineer.
While I would marvel at his ability to calculate those things in his head, my friend would tease him about it. He’d look at him, shake his head and say something along the lines of, “What a nerd.” Or, if it was a particularly complex problem, my friend would laugh and ask, “How did you know that?”
His dad’s response was always the same, “That’s basic math.” It got to the point that we would routinely finish his sentence when the math problem would come up. In fact, it was common that we would embellish his “basic math” phrase and combine it with other common sayings he’d use. We even began using it in other situations at school or as we’d keep score in sporting activities we were participating in. If one of us was keeping track of our golf score in our head, it was easy to do because it was just “basic math.”
If the question came up about how many points Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls were beating our beloved Utah Jazz, inevitably we’d tell the other person the score and tell them to figure out the point differential. It’s “basic math.”
Quite often, it wasn’t basic math to me. Like I said, I’m not a huge math guy. Sure, I can add, subtract, multiply and divide but anything past that, I prefer to use a calculator.
Many of the clients I work with are technology companies. Everybody uses technology, but not everybody is techy or understands how the technology works. One of the things I always tell my clients is to be careful as you explain your technology, product or service. Don’t take for granted that everybody you talk to is going to understand or have the ability to get technical in a discussion about the product or service your technology provides.
I wrote for my high school newspaper and our advisor taught me the KISS principle. This principle applies to any number of business functions. KISS stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. Write it or explain it in a way that an eighth grader can understand.
In the case of my clients, I recommend they explain things in the simplest way possible. If the reporter they’re talking to wants to delve deeper into the tech side of things they can always go into more depth. I caution my clients to let the reporter take the lead or demonstrate to them that they have the ability to go into more technical details.
From a media perspective, if you don’t talk at a level a reporter can understand you’ll significantly decrease your chances of securing the PR results you want.
If you start out too technical, a reporter may not be willing to stop you or may be to embarrassed to admit that they don’t understand what you’re talking about. This doesn’t mean you should explain it as if you were explaining it to a five year old, but you shouldn’t take for granted that a reporter is capable of going into extremely technical detail.
With my clients, I will talk to the reporter and do some research in advance to know and understand how deep their knowledge is and whether or not they’re capable of getting technical or not. Once I know this I will guide my clients in the right direction and help ensure that the reporter is engaged properly.
These same principles can be applied to any industry. Never assume that a reporter or anybody else you’re talking to possesses the same level of understanding or expertise as you. If you take the time to understand your audience and their level of understanding you’ll go a long ways toward securing the results you desire. You’ll also avoid becoming the butt of ongoing jokes like my friend’s dad was with our “basic math” jokes.