Wednesday, November 21, 2007


More than five years ago, my mom had a stroke that partially paralyzed her lips and tongue. Now her speech is unintelligible, but she has kept her voice. Whether it's through handwritten notes or painstaking repetition of garbled phrases she continues to communicate. She keeps her sense of humor and refuses to let her disability become a handicap. I'm proud of her.

About five years ago, quite by accident, she taught me a marketing communications lesson.

She called me at work to share something. She kept repeating herself. But with her garbled speech I quickly became frustrated. So, she calmly hung up. About ten minutes later, my office manager Pat came into my office with a fax -- from my mom. Mom remembered an old fax machine I gave her. If she couldn't talk on the phone, she'd find another way to get her point across.

I laughed at her ingenuity.

Sometimes, as marketers our messages are garbled. If our target audience doesn't understand we blame them. "They just aren't listening to us." It's hard to see how we could be the problem. But perhaps we're using the wrong media. Or maybe we haven't made our message clear or relevant enough. What's important is not placing blame, but finding a way to get heard. It all boils down to doing whatever it takes to get our point across.

Last weekend, my brother and I threw a surprise 70th birthday party for mom. As she walked into the banquet room she was greeted with a booming "Surprise!!!" from family and friends.

For once, she was speechless.

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