Recently, I was invited to a pot luck poetry reading evening with a group that studies different philosophies and religions. The idea of this evening, which they have once a month, is to allow the members of the group to read their poetry or a favorite poet's work to the group. If you don't have a poem of your own, the idea is to 'show and tell' something of interest or entertainment.

This evening, there were about 12 of us in attendance. After some very nice pot luck food, the group assembled in a large circle and began to take turns. The first two deferred their turn in the circle and passed on to the next. He was an older grey-haired, wiry guy who brought out a plastic, mean looking owl. The owl's eyes lit up; the built-in motion sensors set off the eyes and a screeching sound that came out of this "wooden-plastic-made-in-China" owl. I immediately christened this owl the 'sheepish owl' since he did not sound like an owl, but the forlorn bleating of a lost sheep.

He explained that the idea was to scare the pigeons off his roof since they were causing damage and making a mess of his property. Next, he brought out a tiny stuffed version of the "Taco-Bell" dog, that little Mexican Chihuahua that when pushed in the right spot, yelled out "Yo Quiero Taco Bell!"

Boy, this was really getting exciting, I can tell you.

As we went around the circle, everyone knew (except me, the first time visitor) that it was time for 'old Fred' to bring out his parrot. It seems this has happened before. Fred, has a plastic and feathered parrot which repeats whatever you say to it…. out loud ….but it does it twice…..but it does it twice. See what I mean? See what I mean?

Fred demonstrated the parrot, but then brought out another animated high tech bird, this time a chicken that looked like it was in one of the famous pixel-whatever cartoons. But it imitated a chicken being strangled to death.

So now paint this picture in your mind: the owl is screeching like a bleating sheep, the parrot is answering the sheep-owl by echoing his call….twice; the chicken is being strangled, which the parrot also wants to tell us about…..twice; and the little dog is yelling about Taco Bell in Spanish!

Gosh, this is getting even more fun than the first time around! After we go around the circle one more time, I am bristling with fervent anticipation of what Fred is going to do for an encore. Well he decided to read aloud the poem "The Hollow Men" by T.S. Eliot. Wow! The bummer of Eliot and his supremely negative poem, being echoed twice by this irritating parrot!

Why do I tell you about this? It has to do with knowing your audience. The only one having any enjoyment or fun out of Fred's little ego trip was Fred. Somehow he felt that hearing his own voice reading the angst-filled meanderings of Eliot…..twice….by a parrot…..would be considered fun for the rest of us.

Wrong! In advertising or marketing communications of any kind, it cannot be stressed more highly that you have to spend some time and study your audience. The old marketing way was to talk to them. Today you must talk WITH them, not at them. And you need to know what they want to hear, not what you want to tell them; how they want it delivered (e.g. with or without parrot). Finally, you should test it out before you do a complete campaign for your restaurant.

If you've put your audience off or totally to sleep with your topic, content or tone then you've wasted a lot of time and money; notwithstanding the fact that you may have also alienated them forever.

Make sure you really know your audience first before you begin to communicate.

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Tags: advertising, audience, communications, marketing, promotions, publicity

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Comment by Roy MacNaughton on May 1, 2008 at 6:52am
Hi Diane:

'Think I'll give that group a bit of a miss for a while. 'Was going with a friend for my first time. Oh well......

R.
Comment by diane on May 1, 2008 at 5:46am
Wow, that poetry group sounds like a zoo full of crazies... will you ever go again?

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