How Our Mentorship Program Led Us To Better Communication

Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash

When we started the Response Marketing Explorers program we wanted to bring awareness to the career possibilities in the marketing industry to high school students in New Haven. They’ve been exposed to branding, marketing strategy, design, web development, motion graphics, copywriting, and more through individual mentoring sessions with members of our team and assignments. We expected them to be exposed to new ideas and have a lot of questions. But what we didn’t expect was that their questions would help us to reflect on how we were communicating.

As you’re rolling along explaining an idea or principle, getting stopped with a question such as “What does _____mean?” or a simple “Why?” forced us to rethink how we were presenting information and if we were straying from the confidence that comes with strong fundamental understanding. In cognitive bias, this is often called “The Curse of Knowledge.”. The Curse of Knowledge can make get in the way of communication and also make it hard for someone with more knowledge to teach those with less. But being aware of actually gives us a huge opportunity to challenge ourselves and our true understanding of concepts. Getting caught up in acronyms, industry lingo, and jargon can get in the way of clear communication. While the intention may be to show familiarity with concepts and that you “speak the same language” as other marketing people, there is the risk that you may lose your audience and what could have led to a compelling conversation ends up defaulting into someone acquiescing.


The popular Sub-Reddit Explain Like I’m Five has over 19 million members. People looking for layperson’s explanations of things as varied as how the stock market works to why dentists seem to recommend flossing but not mouthwash. The popularity of it is a fascinating look into how many questions people may have but are afraid to ask. And some of the answers show how a great explanation can illicit excitement in someone who just learned something new Just as the students challenged us to reflect on if we were being clear enough, what their questions really led to was asking if we are doing a good job as communicators.


One of the most effective tools for ensuring you are communicating clearly is The Feynman Technique. The Feynman Technique essentially requires you to write down/communicate your knowledge of a subject like you were explaining it to a child, identify the gaps in your knowledge where you are struggling to explain something simply, fill in those knowledge gaps, then go back and refine your explanation with that new knowledge. What this technique can help with beyond just identifying your gaps in knowledge is to shed light on the areas that you aren’t being clear or you’re using jargon that doesn’t properly create any clarity.

Great teachers have an enduring impact on us. Decades later a nugget of wisdom can still influences how we think. Running a mentorship program for students in marketing has shown us that the ones that spark our curiosity to the point where we want to ask questions of genuine interest are the ones who are the great communicators. And those great communicators can make us better marketers.