I had an interesting conversation yesterday about developing your own brand through dialogue with others.
The subject of said conversation was a former (retired) principal of a South County St. Louis-area high school. Because the inhabitants of South County have a more “southern” accent, this principal, also from the area, spoke the same way in both casual and professional environments. Words often used in her dialogue included “ain’t” and the like.
The question was, why did this educator, who had a master’s degree, speak so unprofessionally when she knew very well how to sound professional?
Then I got to thinking. Perhaps, rather than using proper grammar and such to affirm her position as principal, was she speaking more causally because her main audience (students, parents, and teachers) spoke the same way?
Later on yesterday evening, I watched an episode of Sex & the City, paying my usual particular attention to the character Samantha Jones.
One of the most important things I’ve learned about working in public relations is that you must know your audience at all times. Whether it’s developing your own brand or speaking on behalf of another, you must know who you’re speaking to and how to best reach them.
Samantha, a PR pro herself, demonstrates this almost too well. In an episode of Season 4, Samantha must deal with three transsexual prostitutes on her street who consistently make too much noise in the wee hours of the morning. In her first attempt to quiet them, Samantha struts her stuff outside to talk to them.
She says, “Ladies, hello. I live right up there, the loft within earshot. As much as I respect a woman’s right for a little somethin’ somethin’ with certain New Jersey gentlemen, I have a request. I have a very early business meeting. And I think we all know, there are certain dark circles even the best make-up can’t cover. Am I right?” (Source)
And just like that, she alleviates the problem. Well, at least for the night.
So thinking back on the aforementioned principal, perhaps she was doing the right thing.
Yes, it is important to maintain a proper dialogue, good grammar and all, to keep your professional composure. But when you’re dealing with a particular audience, it is better to cater yourself to your audience to build a closer connection. That way, in the long run, they are better able to trust and identify with you and your brand.