Know your target audience. That’s the first lesson taught in TV news, and one I learned many times since switching to marketing as a career.
Perhaps that’s why this experience, related to my father fighting lung cancer, stands out clearly six years later.
I stood frustrated in my dad’s living room. The temperature exceeded the outdoor’s heat, 85-plus. My father was chilled.
Sunlight only peaked around the drapes’ edges, pulled close to give him rest anytime of day.
The haze from the last cigarette hung below the ceiling. He hadn’t given up that habit yet.
It felt claustrophobic.
It also represented the third day we’d met with the home-health services’ woman. All three times we expected she’d leave with his new auto-feeder setup and ready to use. But no.
First visit: She introduced herself, left some nutrition pamphlets and informed us the equipment would arrive the next day.
Second visit: She planned to greet the health-equipment installer, but apparently mis-communications prevailed. We’d have to reschedule.
Third visit: Forgive me. On that hot, smoke-filled day, my patience waned.
Concerned about my father, never a big man but who had shriveled to my pint-sized stature, I’d reached my capacity for excuses.
When home-health lady explained that neither she nor the equipment-delivery lady knew how to set up the auto-feeder or train us on how to use it, I wanted to strangle her.
“What in the hell are you here for then?” I wondered. “A UPS driver could have fulfilled your role.”
As equipment-delivery lady busied herself with unpacking and avoiding eye contact, I expressed my dissatisfaction to home-health lady.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man enter the house, box in hand, and exchange pleasantries with my father.
“Forgive me, but this is a bit ridiculous,” I continued to home-health lady. “My dad isn’t getting the nutrients he needs. You and your gaggle of colleagues are simply feeding us a bunch of justifications.”
Then my ears perked up.
“Ribeye, t-bone, tenderloin-cut all delivered to your door monthly.”
Say what?!? Was the man crouched before my father, hunched on his couch, really trying to sell him a steak-of-the-month subscription?
My head exploded!
“You need to leave,” I said as I approached him.
“Get out of this house right now,” I shouted.
“For Pete’s sake! Can’t you see he has a valve sticking out of his stomach? Are you oblivious that this woman is setting up his feeding machine? Or are you such an asshole that you just don’t care?
Get out of this house or I, I, I…”
Sentence unfinished, steak-man grabbed his box and hauled butt.
“Know your freaking audience,” I wanted to scream, fist pumped, as he exited.
The unhelpful health posse soon followed, undoubtedly with a crazy-customer story in tow.
“What in the world were you thinking, Dad?” I laughed. “You don’t even eat steak anymore, since you stopped wearing your dentures.”
“Well, Toot,” he grinned. “He seemed like a nice enough fella. Got a toddler at home and is trying to save up money to go back to college.”
Then, I remembered the stack of electronics in the adjacent room – “collateral” for money “loaned” to lost souls met at a nearby bar. I noticed the charity envelopes, requesting his semi-annual donation, interspersed in the ever-larger tower of medical bills.
Dad had always been a sucker for a hard-times story.
And that’s when it hit me. The steak-man, indeed, knew his audience.
That jerk just didn’t know his audience’s protective, and occasionally explosive, daughter!