By Roderick Kelly
Co-founder, K+L Storytellers
Communication is a two-way highway. Information is delivered by one party and received by another. But a glitch on either end can change the game. Here’s a story that our family will laugh about for years to come.
I had scooped up our daughter Katherine in Chicago on Friday after her workday so she could spend Mother’s Day with us in the suburbs and attend our son Patrick’s graduation from Waubonsee Community College. Normally, she would take the commuter train, but she had laundry galore and presents and winter clothes to bring home so of course I obliged to be her Duber (Dad Uber).
As we were driving the 40 miles during a slow Friday rush hour, I asked her to call her brother so he could light the grill. We were having bratwurst for dinner. She quickly said, “Ahhh, I was hoping for tortellini soup.”
What’s a Dad to do? I had my heart set on brats. So I told her to check with Mom. Of course, I knew the answer before she could whip out her iPhone. My wife Michele is going to make whatever the children want. But, since she has a strict policy of turning off her phone everyday at 5 p.m., the question threaded through our youngest son.
Once off the phone, Katherine said we were supposed to stop at the grocery story and pick up spinach, chicken brats and Italian bread. “OK,” I’m thinking to myself. “We’re going to have both brats and tortellini soup.” An odd combination, but heck, I’m game.
Less than a mile from home, I run into the local Jewel and snap up the spinach and Italian bread. I scour the brat and chicken sections. No chicken brats. Drat. I ask the deli server where I can find chicken brats. She politely said she didn’t know and that’s not her department. Double drat. I then see a store worker leaving the nearby break room and ask her if she knows where the chicken brats are. “I’m sorry. I’m in floral, but I can get someone to help you.”
I’m hangry at this point and am eager to wash down my brat with an adult beverage. I decline her generous offer, grab the previously spotted turkey brats and say to myself: “These will have to do.”
I proudly walk into the house with the items, and my wife says: “Where is the chicken broth?”
“Yes, the chicken broth for the tortellini soup,” she says with an expectant glance at the clock which reads almost 8 p.m.
I realized the error. Triple drat. (Just to tie up this story, we sent Junior out for the chicken broth and made him take a picture of the product before purchasing.)
The breakdown in this story may have occurred in the delivery or receiving of the information. And that can happen with companies and their clients.
Are your company’s messages and stories being correctly heard and portrayed to your customers and prospects? One way to make sure is to have a well-defined story that can be articulated in writing and verbally by everyone on your team.
Author and political adviser Frank Luntz wrote: “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.” Got that right!
By the way, the tortellini soup was great, as were the brats — grilled on a different night.