Expert Witnesses Should Avoid Puffery
We have cautioned before about following the practices of other business-to-business professional services marketing. It is not simply communicating the benefits of your services to prospects. For you, as an expert witness, reaching attorney prospects is only the tip of the iceberg. Once an attorney determines you are possibly the right expert for the case, she is looking not only at your qualifications, but also how easy you will be to work with, how you will come across to the triers of fact, what opposing counsel could use to attack you, how you communicate, etc. So in contrast to other B2B marketing, expert witnesses should not promise results or offer guarantees, be “salesy,” give out coupons or discounts, or use self-serving subjective descriptions of themselves and their work.
It’s this last point I want to address today – puffery. You have earned your status as an expert; let your accomplishments, experience, and credentials speak for themselves. When you use subjective characterizations to describe your qualifications, it can come across as arrogance, over-compensation, and self-serving. Self-aggrandizement can indicate to your prospect that a) you might be difficult to work with, b) opposing counsel has ammunition from the get-go, and c) your demeanor might not play well with the judge/jury if you are that boastful in person.
With an impartial eye, examine your CV, directory listings, and your website (especially if the pages on your website were composed by someone else). Look for words like: extensive, numerous, broad, excellent, entirely, exclusive, top, recognized, major, strongly, prestigious, leading, vast, superior, and only.
These words aren’t bad words; it’s all in how they are used. There is no need to opine on your “extensive” experience, when your CV clearly shows how “extensive” it is. Published in “prestigious” publications? The names of the publications will tell readers if they are prestigious or not; you do not need to enlighten them. If you find use of a superlative adjective such as best, largest, longest, first, highest, etc., ask yourself a) if it’s true and b) who said so.
I’m not recommending removing all descriptive words from your materials. Just be aware of their use and how they appear to others and/or how they could be manipulated and used against you. Be accurate, concise, and professional. Let your accomplishments and experience speak for you.
— by Rosalie Hamilton. She consults and coaches and provides full-service marketing for experts, including web site development. She is the author of The Expert Witness Marketing Book.