Going From Homeless to a Celebrity by Being Specific

Last December, NBC Nightly News ran an interview with a lady in Florida to capture the challenges some viewers are facing with the holidays approaching.  She told the reporter that she had lost her job five months ago, was about to be evicted from her house with her three children and desperately needed a job.  Then came the moment of truth.  The reporter asked,  “What kind of work are you looking for?”  Did she go specific or did she spread the net as wide as possible?  She spread the net wide and said, “I can do anything.  I am desperate.  I really need a job.”   We all know what happened.  Nothing.  She missed a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to connect with hundreds of potential employers.  Instead, she went for trying to connect with millions and ended up empty handed.

Imagine how different it might have been if she said something like this.  “I have spent the last 5 years working as a cashier in a local grocery store.  I loved my job and loved dealing with the customers.  Someone must be looking for a loyal and dedicated cashier out there.”  That is being famous for something.  My guess is that while she would have limited her search, she would have made her message more compelling and memorable.  The power of being specific.

Now, I appreciate the fact that some of you still might not agree with this example.  So, let’s look at a similar situation that took place in January.   A videographer  from the Columbus Dispatch interviewed Ted Williams, a homeless man who had a criminal record for theft, admitted to abusing drugs and alcohol, and looked like he had been homeless for a long time.  When Ted’s moment of truth came, he had the sense to be specific and told the world what he was famous for…a great radio voice.  

Ted Williams in Columbus

That video made the NBC Nightly News along with over 10 million hits on YouTube.  Within days, Ted received offers that included being the announcer for the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers, and the voice behind Kraft Foods new TV campaign.  He also was invited to most of the network morning talk shows and is in contract negotiations to be the host of the the reality show, Second Chances at Life

Ted understood the power of being famous for something.  And it works!

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Explore posts in the same categories: Having the right message

6 Comments on “Going From Homeless to a Celebrity by Being Specific”

  1. Brian Says:

    Another lesson to be learned from Ted Williams: the power of asking! Sometimes, the only thing standing in your way is simply asking for what you need. So many people find every excuse not to ask . . .


  2. Riffle approach is more effective with a little shot gun to potentially capture the unknown!

  3. Jack Spartz Says:

    You’re right on with your advice. We know it applies to the marketing world and understand it but when it comes to professional positioning we are tempted to try to be all things to all people hoping we wont miss a sale or job opportunity. Truth is once we get past that first job out of school the client or hiring manager is really looking for the specialist with experience to help build their business. Thanks for sharing Mike!

  4. Jonathan Says:

    This is a great story and great example of how to be specific in this situation. It brings to mind when I was unhappy with my first job out of college, and when I went to interview with a premier real estate company, I told them I could do anything in real estate. Of course, I didn’t get the job, but it’s better that way. The blog looks great Mike

  5. Janice Darling Says:

    I had dinner with a friend of my mom’s who told me she was unemployed. I asked what she was looking to do and she responded “any thing that will pay the bills”. It was all I could do to avoid rolling my eyes. I looked right at her and said – I might be able to help you, I might be hiring someone, you don’t know… but I have absolutely no idea what to do with what you just told me. I got her attention and she is now asking for help refining her message!


  6. Great perspective Mike! Finding and honing one’s specific gift dramatically increases one’s chances of drawing contrasts to effectively appeal to the instinctive sense. This helps sharpen my focus for what ACSS needs to do to help people get and stay out of the state of homelessness! Thank you Mike!


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