5 Tips To Make Sure You’re Speaking to the Right Audience: Congress Bails on the Bailout
Ian Lurie Sep 29 2008
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.”
“GAAAAAAAAAAH pass this right away OH MY GOD THE SKY IS FALLING HELP HELP?!!!!”
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
- Skip the middle man. If your audience actually has another, larger audience, make sure they aren’t the real target.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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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Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More