Monday, July 25, 2011

Your Local Street Preacher

Every larger town or city probably has at least one street preacher.  I'd like to tell you about one who is parked in front of Old Navy at the corner of Washington and State Streets in Chicago.

He's famous enough to have had an article written about him and folks have posted videos such as the one below.  Please be advised that the views you will hear are his and his only.  My intent on sharing it is to give you some texture.

Considering he's been out there for 40+ years, you've got to admit that the guy has energy and tenacity (regardless of your belief in his message).  And, it's this combo of energy and tenacity that I'd like to talk to you about today.

Hello?  Is this thing on?

It's clear that people "hear" him but are not always listening to him.  And I often wonder why he sticks to the same style of preaching if he's not making connections with people in the way he'd like.  And I often conclude because these are not connections in the way they'd like.

So, what of business?  Does energy and tenacity of message matter if people are walking by?  Clearly no.  Too often, as with this preacher, we're so focused on the broadcast that we forget to check if the receivers are on at all.  

This is especially serious if the broadcast doesn't ring true.  I've had major service issues with a phone company and a bank with each call yielding different meaningless answers but ending with "your business is important to us."  It's hard to believe that when service is poor and I've told them so.

Walk in their shoes.

These days, it's not enough to be present, or exactly what the street preacher is doing.  Being present is a given so we don't get extra credit points for our tenacity of presence.  But how we're present and what we're doing while we're present matter to others.

They say that the customer owns the brand which is really another way of saying that perception is reality.  It's all well and good that we tenaciously create and promote truisms about our brands/products/etc. but the arbiter of the veracity of these truisms is the customer.  We always have to ask ourselves if what we say is consistent with what customers hear.

So, I leave it to you.  How are you doing with "what" and "how" when it comes to your customers?  What do you think you could be doing better?  Please share below and, if you've enjoyed this post, please share with others.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


  1. Good post, Parissa - certainly initiates a look back. (again his views are not necessarily mine) Good example, and we can interpret several business lessons from this. One, he's clearly made an impact as he 'blasts' his message by megaphone. As the messenger, it seems he's not concerned with the outcome as, his plans are greater than what he can do by one-to-one messages, and he'll be heard by more this way.

    While each person may be caught off guard, some offended or peeved by his approach - isn't he doing everything in his capacity? Did his message prompt a self-reflection in others? Is it possible he has impacted many? He would never know what the outcome is, but clearly he's confident in his position. Based on that, I would conclude he's not concerned with recognition just as he's not afraid of putting himself out there. He's simply passionate about his purpose, and if we are receptive we know what we must do.

  2. Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for stopping by! You pose some very good points, as usual, and you're likely right. The tragedy is that his interest is in the broadcast and his failure is in the follow up. It's great to sing from the rooftops but if you're not around to help "close the deal" I wonder at the effort of the former. He's committed, passionate and clearly doesn't want to change. I wonder if he would have been more effective if he had gone a different route to share his words.

  3. Great point Parissa. This goes back to trust. I think people tune out much of what they see and hear unless it is from a trusted source. Even if what he says has value, because of how it's delivered it's not saving anyone.

    Just like spammy FB and Twitter posts.

  4. Hi Angel,

    Thanks for the comment! You're so right about trust. I wonder how he could be better at creating an air of trust with that small time window he has. I suppose it could start with switching the fire and brimstone to something a little more approachable!

  5. The preacher (which I'll proudly say I'm never on the same page as him) isn't getting the attention or approval he's seeking because a) he's preaching to the wrong audience and b) this (or generally most) audience is smart enough to read through his, for a lack of a better word, carp. This is true for any business/brand/speaker. Make sure you have the right audience, or at least know about them, and never underestimate their intelligence. Just because you have a loud voice, doesn't mean that the message will come across.

  6. Hi Sami,

    Thanks for your great points. Like my comment to Angel, I wonder at the opportunity cost. There may be people out there with whom his message could resonate but his adversarial and accusatory style repel instead of attract.

    This is an instance where you can successfully argue that the number of impressions do NOT count towards ROI!