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Strategy Guide for Capcom’s Lit Fighter II: The Word Warriors

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Stephen King King is a fast-moving combatant, capable of unleashing a flurry of pages from his chest-mounted typewriter. A good character to play against newbies, who will be intimidated by King’s prolific output. On either side of the battle, remember…

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Hit me, baby, one more time.

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Literary Foofaraw
Wednesday, September 27, 2006   |    Fiction

A Memo From Your Pollster

by Michael Ward

The results of the polls you commissioned last month have been tabulated. Since you’re a no-spin kind of person, I’ll get right to the point. You face some significant challenges. With the full nationwide poll (n=1,017 registered voters), you had name recognition of 0.0%. The margin of error of the poll is +/- 4.6%, which means that it is conceivable that your name recognition could be as high as almost 5%. (On the flip side, it could also be -4.6% of course, although in my 28 years in the polling industry, I have only once seen someone’s name rec below zero.)

A secondary result of your 0.0% name recognition in the national sample is that your Approve/Disapprove ratio is also pretty well balanced, since both were zero. The obvious good news from this is that you have ample room to grow-what we in the business call “upside movement potential.”

Where things get a little more complicated is when you look at the second, targeted poll that was conducted among your immediate family, coworkers, and long-term friends. The sample size of this poll was a bit smaller (n=14), but probably sufficient to give you a sense of where you stand, especially when combined with the follow-up focus groups we conducted.

Among the many interesting results of this poll, the most surprising and disturbing were the answers to the question of whether you are a “Strong Leader.” Only 14.3% of respondents “Agreed” or “Strongly Agreed” with that characterization of you. Asked about that in the focus groups, there was a split over the reasons for this. One anonymous participant noted that you “might be a strong leader if [you]’d actually take control of the morning meetings instead of letting Dave from marketing run the show.” A second anonymous participant doubted that you were ever capable of strong leadership, pondering whether you could “even take leadership over washing the dishes.” In your favor, one anonymous participant did cite your leadership in planning “the most ripping bachelor party ever back in ‘98” as a point in your favor.

As with the strong leader question, answers to the question “Does he share your values?” leave some upside movement potential. About 57% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed. In the focus groups, further probing of this question revealed a discrepancy over what your values actually are.

Some seemed to think that you stand for a “take it easy” approach toward all but the most critical projects, while one anonymous participant was adamant that “sometimes the other kids on the soccer team ask me to tell daddy not to yell so much at them from the sidelines, since it’s just a game.” This points toward a need to develop a more coherent message strategy.

In order to flesh that out a bit, we did some focus group work on potential messaging that you might consider. The only message we found that was both credible and positive was a message of “I’m not perfect. I’m just an underdog doin’ my best for my job, my friends, and my family.” It seemed to have some sympathetic appeal and will provide you ample flexibility in the event of future challenging or problematic situations.

Of course, using this as your underlying message means you’re going to have to make some changes. First, you are going to have to stop leaving work at 4:45 p.m. so often. It undercuts your “doing my best” message, and it just means your coworkers end up picking your slack. Plus, don’t you think that maybe that is part of the reason you haven’t gotten a raise in two years, and not that the boss has some inexplicable hatred for you? Second, with your friends you are going to have to stop telling the story about the time that you hit the winning homerun in the softball game. It undercuts your “I’m not perfect” message and, to be honest, they’re getting sick of hearing it. They were at the game too, remember? Finally, with your family, if you’re going to garner their sympathy, you’re going to need to ease up a little on the criticism. It’s not a big deal if your son knocked over his juice, and it’s not the end of the world if your wife is hogging the sheets. Criticizing them damages your ability to garner sympathy for your own “I’m not perfect” message.

Overall, you have plenty of opportunity to take this new message and rebrand yourself. Doing so should have a major positive impact on your numbers. In order to see whether this is the case, we recommend polling again in about six months. In the meantime, one last piece of advice: For Chrissake, stop yelling at the poor cat when it doesn’t make it to the litter box in time. It’s 16 years old with major health problems and, as best as our research could ascertain, it does not speak English. Yelling at it just makes you look fucking ridiculous.

Michael Ward is a product of deepest, darkest suburban Boston and a smallish liberal arts college. Among other things, he has accidentally walked into a Backstreet Boys concert in Brazil, won an umbrella by besting the citizens of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in a battle of wits, and learned the hard way that ATA and AirTran Airways are not, in fact, the same airline. His garlic guacamole is divine. He is, above all else, a pragmatist.