About 20 years ago, I decided it would be fun to write a story on waiting in line—the psychology of it, the various ways people experience it, and whatever else flowed from looking into the common phenomenon.
To conduct my reporting, I ventured to some of the “usual suspect” waiting spots: a bank, a grocery store and a post office, among others. But by far the most memorable locale was the Secretary of State’s driver’s license facility in Elgin.
Because George Ryan, the future governor and convicted felon, was Illinois Secretary of State at the time, there was no shortage of political hacks who managed to over-manage what should have been a simple process.
I had to indulge one of Ryan’s cronies drone on for what seemed like an hour before I could proceed with a few simple interviews of everyday folks. Of course, in a perfectly fitting behind-the-scenes aspect of the saga, Ryan's foot soldiers made me wait a day to do it.
But with government bureaucrats, let’s face it: we pretty much expect this sort of nonsense. In the private sector, though, make people wait and you are making a mess of your enterprise’s future.
Barry Moltz, author and business consultant, hammers home this truth with the fifth point he cites in his recent piece, 7 Hot Trends for Small Business in 2013:
"Mobile payments are accepted by every employee. For retailers, long lines in front of the cash register are gone. The mobile payment model that Apple uses in its stores—where each employee greets the customer, assists with product selection, processes the transaction on an iPhone and e-mails a receipt—is the future. The opportunity: The salesperson on the retail floor can greet customers and stay with them through the entire sale, increasing prospect to customer conversion rates.”
The implications for public relations and marketing are considerable. The more you can communicate your message directly to your target audience, without anyone or anything in between who might muddle or dilute or otherwise fail to pass it along, the better off you will be.
That principle has been central to the economic model of countless network marketing companies that have actually struck around and thrived over the years—entities like Amway, Mary Kay and The Pampered Chef, whose founder got her start in the basement of her River Forest home.
“Find a need and fill it”—I first heard this age-old business tenet from Ron Puryear, founder of World Wide DreamBuilders (WWDB) and an extraordinarily successful Amway Independent Business Owner.
In the same way, find what the media need and fill it with newsworthy ideas and, better yet, fully formed content. You know--stories that have a beginning, middle and end.
For publicists, the media as we once knew it is no longer anywhere close to being the ideal intermediary, anyhow.
In light of the ongoing and mounting struggles of longstanding traditional media such as newspapers, more of my former media and current PR colleagues are noting that the time is coming—and is already here in some instances—where a crowd of journalistic expatriates will vie for the attention and news hole of a solitary journalism survivor at a given outlet.
That provides all the more reason, as noted above, to get better at identifying your audience and carving out a direct, customized connection that appeals even as it delivers value to them.
The time to do it, by the way, is yesterday or preferably much earlier—what are you waiting for?