Know Your Audience


My daughter and I are in the throes of graduation preparation and college selection; I feel like a crazy person. Last weekend, she had a meltdown for which I had to do damage control and restore her sense of balance (and still get the boy to basketball practice on time). This past week had been constant contact with the college guidance office for me (not pretty, fodder for another post) and AP exam anxiety for her. We capped the week with a day visit to my alma mater,  Temple University in Philly- either to take it off the table or increase the complexity of her decision.

We drove up from DC to attend an information session and tour. There has been so much on-campus development that I was lost; fellow alumni have kept me abreast but to see it was stunning. Anyway, listening to the admission’s counselor wrap up the presentation, I hear:

This is not the Temple of the 80s and 90s. At that time,  anyone with a pulse could get in.

My daughter turns to me wide-eyed and I mirror her shock/surprise/offense. The group was corralled for a restroom break before the tour. My daughter was turned off. I agreed that it was inappropriate but urged her to take the tour and I’d deal with it later. [I had to put my big-girl panties on.]

I left her in the restroom prettying up her hair and returned to the group. I found said counselor answering a few more questions from parents and students. Do you have a question? No just a comment.

Class of 95. You should probably not use that line in your talk.

Cue the stuttering. What I meant was in the SEVENTIES, it was seen as a public university for Philadelphia. You could get in with a 2.7 and a 750 score. Those that attended then as parents they think it’s still that way and it’s not…
I gave no response and the lobby was slient. I found my daughter to begin the tour.

As a PR professional, I have written countless speeches, talking points and created multi-media presentations. I have always driven home the rule of knowing your audience with senior execs, board members, CEOs. This is PR 101. Never mind my personal feelings about the statement. He is an agent of the university and therefore a spokesman. You do not make disparaging remarks about your organization in public. Further, do your research. We had to register for this activity. My daughter’s file should be flagged that her parent is an alum because it was a question on the admission application. If it isn’t, it should be to maximize CRM. And, most importantly…WHO DO YOU THINK MAKES UP YOUR DONOR BASE? Surely not graduates within the last decade…

I see this as a teachable moment. I am hopeful that he received the lesson.

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