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5 Tips To Make Sure You're Speaking to the Right Audience: Congress Bails on the Bailout

President Bush could have seen his bailout package passed two weeks ago, by a clear majority.
But he spoke to the wrong audience. His audience was not Congress. His audience is American citizenry. If he’d thought about that, he might have said:
“This bailout will reduce foreclosures because banks will have more money to lend. You’ll get to keep your house.”
Instead of:
Persuade the voters, and they’ll persuade Congress in short order. The message the President chose came off as him getting his cronies a boost. Congressmen and women’s phones rang off the hook with angry calls. Congress voted against the bailout.

An historical note: During the Depression, FDR never once spoke directly to Congress. He gave speeches in Congress, but always aimed his message at the American people. He thereby passed legislation that would’ve gotten Herbert Hoover (his predecessor) drawn and quartered on the White House lawn. FDR spoke to the right audience.

Unless you want to repeat George Bush’s mistake, make sure you’re speaking to the right audience:

5 Tips To Make Sure You’re Speaking to the Right Audience

  1. Skip the middle man. If your audience actually has another, larger audience, make sure they aren’t the real target.
  2. Target the persuaders. Who in the audience will persuade everyone to take action? Don’t sell to the car salesmen – sell to the drivers. Don’t sell to the babies – sell to the parents. Don’t sell to the officials – sell to their constituents.
  3. Speak clearly. This should be obvious enough, but clearly the President didn’t get it this time. Your message needs to be clear: Why should I support, or at least tolerate, the bailout? What’s in it for me, Joe Average American?
  4. Speak to those who can act (or will). It’s an election year. Politicians are all about winning the next election. They’re terrified of doing anything that might cost them votes. They won’t act. Citizens who are fighting for their homes and their livelihoods will, though. They have the incentive to act and no reason not to. If you give them the right message.
  5. Check the response. If the audience responds in a way that makes no sense, you’re probably speaking to the wrong people. That’s your fault, not theirs. When the President said “Save our economy” and Congress said “I’m not too sure about this”, he should’ve known right away he had the wrong audience.

Now, I’m headed off to shop for a rifle and some beef jerky. Seems like a good time to head for the hills…
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CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. @Lunarpages Persuaders might be search engines, or people. If they’re people, they’re influencers on social networks – the Diggers, etc.. If they’re search engines, it’s all about making sure the spiders can easily figure out what argument they should be making.

  2. So true!
    I think the initial failure to convince Congress to pass the Bailout bill also demonstrates what happens when you lose all credibility with your client/customer/audience. Once they believe your not dealing with them honestly your DONE!

  3. I really think the Obama era would see this close out too.
    He really has been An Inspiration to all of us here.
    and He’s going to address this Issue as well.

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