The Buzz by Mike Schaffer - PR, Social Media, Pop Culture and Sports

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May 31, 2010

“Who’s On First” & Avoiding Miscommunication

Tags: abbott and costello, baseball, comedy, humor, , , who's on first,

The year was 2007.  The Los Angeles Dodgers needed an infielder, so they reached into their farm system and recalled Taiwanese player Chin-Lung Hu.  In a game against the San Diego Padres, the newest player singled, allowing Vin Scully to utter the greatest line in baseball broadcasting history: “And Hu’s on first.”

Of course, that hearkened back to the days of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello and their infamous “Who’s On First?” routine.  Take a look – and it’s OK to laugh out loud!

OK, ok, ok…how does “Who’s On First?” relate to public relations?

It is a textbook on how NOT to communicate!  Neither Abbott nor Costello were asking the questions properly or providing the answers clearly, which led to:

1) Confusion

2) Frustration

3) Well…laughs for you and me.

Here are 3 steps to avoiding miscommunication:

1) Know Your Audience: Above all else, know who you are talking/writing to.  Would you talk to a room of scientists the same way you’d talk to a group of skateboarders?  Probably not, and that’s OK.  So take time and do some research on who your audience is!

2) Put Yourself In Their Shoes: After you’ve ascertained who is paying attention, think about how they will receive the information you are sending them.  Concentrate less on what you will say and more on what they will hear.  If you aren’t presenting your case in a way they can understand it, you’ve already lost.

3) Be Complete: You know the old saying about assumptions?  It’s axiomatic because it’s true.  Present completely and accurately so everyone knows what was said.

In the sketch, Abbott and Costello couldn’t get on the same page.  Well, they actually could: THIRD BASE!

What tips do you have to avoid miscommunication?

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  • I'm a little late but I love this post. You're advice is right on point. Also "Who's On First?" was one of my favorite parts of my 6th grade English class. Teacher let us listen to the whole thing lol
  • OnlinePRNews
    One of the best ways that I can think of to avoid communication errors with clients is to use BaseCamp or some other project management system. This way everything is well-documented and the history of your conversation isn't dependent on you not deleting an email thread! (A lifesaver for me as I am notorious for deep cleaning my inbox on a whim!)

    When it comes to communicating with the media, I think the best advice is to just keep it simple! Make sure your news angle is front and center in the title of your press release -- stop trying to be 'cute' or overly creative. I might tend to be a little boring in that sense, but I believe that busy journalists aren't going to take the time to hunt for your news. :-) -- Tara
  • Great tips!!
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