Re: using one's academic titles

Subject: Re: using one's academic titles
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 28 Dec 1996 11:02:00 EST

At 09:14 PM 12/27/96 -0500, you wrote:
>I'd love to hear what TW's think about this situation:

>SCENARIO: My partner and I both have Ph.D's and do freelance technical and
>business writing. Our degrees are in biology, which may or may not relate
>to the content/topic of the jobs we take. How often should we "flash"
>our titles??

>MY OPINION: I feel it's adequate to have "Ph.D" on our business cards, and
>when signing official documents (e.g., on cover letter accompanying a
>completed project, on correspondence related to the job, etc.). I
>don't think it is necessary to put these title on the document itself,
>when authorship of the report is declared.

I tend to be a pragmatist: What works is good. What doesn't work is bad. But
that leaves open what we mean by "works."

Most of us don't even get to sign our end documents, which apparently you
do. My first question to you is "Does your use of the "Phud" get you
business?" It wouldn't in my areas, but we do very little scientific work.
If your prospects worship a phud, then use it liberally. If they don't, hide
it and let the work stand on its own.

If you're like the rest of us, though, you'll find a mixed bag of prospects.
Some are failed phuds and don't want anybody around who's succeeded. Others
whistle appreciatively. Still others couldn't care less. And a great many
think that a phud after your name is showboating. What're you tryin' to
hide? Your incompetence behind a title? A friend of mine worked for Sandvik
and was one of the most competent people I've ever known in machine tooling.
He was a whiz. He took his M.S. mechanical engineering degree and built on
it for twenty years. But he also never, ever, let machine shop owners know
he was an engineer. He left his hair rumpled and his clothes slightly
mismatched. His manner was down-home aw-shucks. Not only was he a brilliant
engineer, he was an outstanding marketer too.

We all try to push forward the things we think will get us business. But
it's always a guess based on experience. The more experience you have, the
better your guess will be. We've learned over the last decade how best to
present ourselves, and we're still accumulating wisdom. If we worked
extensively with academics and we had phuds, you betcha I'd make sure they
knew we had 'em, even though we wouldn't insist on being called "doctor"
anything. After all, a phud in academia is like owning a Rollex at a Kennedy
soiree. But we'd sure put 'em on the business cards, and on the reports if
we got to sign 'em.

Manufacturers, our major market, are actually turned off by phuds, except in
the rare cases of high-level consultants. Even if we had phuds, we wouldn't
display them. Different audience, different expectations. With manufacturers
we stress money, profit, savings, things like that. Our clients generally
take the view that they've already got enough high-domed theoreticians around.

In fact, we began doing better financially when we figured out that we were
serving a wide range of prospects and we started working out how to appeal
to as many as we could. We still don't do extremely well with analyticals,
for example. But we're getting better. The problem you'll have is that you
won't be targeting your phud. Rather, you'll be broadcasting it, so it lands
in front of phud-haters as readily as not. Bottom line: Is your phud enough
of a selling tool to trumpet it? And to answer that you might want to get on
the phone to your previous clients and ask. Then make your decision and be
prepared to write off the prospects who are actually driven away by your
approach. And there always will be some. But at least your older clients
will answer your question. Nobody else, on this list or not, can truly
answer it for you.

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
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