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The Angry Whopper.

Recently, our family traveled to Budapest, Hungary, for vacation. Friends had moved to the city last year and invited us to visit. They were fabulous tour guides, showing us beautiful monuments, exquisite churches and many extraordinary land marks built at various points during the country's turbulent history. We experienced the culture and customs and gained a better understanding of the people.

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As you can imagine, communicating in a foreign country with a language that is quite unique is challenging. For example, when my son tried to order a cheeseburger at a restaurant, he said he wanted it "plain with just ketchup and cheese." The waiter (with his minimal English speaking skills) cocked his head and repeated "Plain?" My son assured him that he indeed did want it "plain," reiterating he wanted only ketchup and cheese. When the burger came, my famished son took a bite and looked surprised. He told us there was no burger, just ketchup and cheese!

After reconciling our language differences with the waiter, my son received a cheeseburger with meat. We realized that the menu said the burger came with lettuce, tomato and onion--all items that my son does not like. He viewed a "plain cheeseburger" as the cheese, burger and ketchup. The waiter, however, delivered what he heard as the order.

This experience made me think about how we communicate with our customers and whether or not we have shared values and a common language that enables us to connect accurately Is our message being heard? Are we saying what we mean? Do customers connect with our messages?

During our travels, I spent time observing advertising in airports, on the street and on public transportation. While I realize that many fast food enterprises have located in foreign countries, I was surprised to see McDonalds and Burger King in Budapest. I think my children welcomed the golden arches as a familiar sight, but the advertising that caught my eye was a large billboard advertising, in English, "The Angry Whopper." What did they mean by "angry?" Is the whopper angry at me? Or is the whopper just angry at being eaten? How can "angry" be a positive and inviting message? We could not read the Hungarian language underneath that explained it, but it was likely stating that it was spicy or hot. As you can see, the message conveyed differently to us.

As you read this issue focused on public relations and marketing, you'll learn more about messages, target audiences and getting heard in a marketplace that's full of noise. Competing with others to gain customer attention is not easy, but Larry's Mesereau's article, "Zap the Competition," provides some ideas and tactics that can help you position your telco in your market.

Also, companies' Web sites are more prominent in the customer communication mix than ever before. Masha Zager's "Make Your Web Site Sizzle" tackles the topic with Web design experts' advice and telco insight to help you make improvements and build customer connections.

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This entire issue is dedicated to communicating effectively with customers. I'm sure you'll find terrific tips and tactics that will enable you to identify your audience and craft messages that are meaningful and relatable to your key customers and potential customers.

As you examine your marketing and PR efforts and review copy for that next promotion, think about the "Angry Whopper." Are you using language and phrases that your audience will understand? Will they connect with your message? As I reflect on our trip and the communication barriers, I will remember that ordering a plain cheeseburger does not always get you what you want, and an "angry" whopper might just be something tasty.

Wendy Mann

Director, Communications

wmann@ntca.org
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Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:FROM the Editor
Author:Mann, Wendy
Publication:Rural Telecommunications
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:621
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