Travel is Good for the Saul
I just came back from a trip to Israel. Part of the trip offered a one day excursion to Petra, Jordan, so naturally I jumped at the chance to see one of the wonders of the ancient world.
Al-Khazneh or The Treasury
As we were walking with our guide in one of the amazing slot canyons, my Mom heard a voice ahead of us that sounded very familiar.
She came up to me and said, “I think that’s Mandy Patinkin.” Now, The Princess Bride is one of my all time favorite movies and I'm also a devoted watcher of Homeland. So I did what any normal person would do, I silently trotted up behind him to hear his voice as he talked with the woman next to him.
The Initial Touchpoint
We informed our guide about what was going on, and clever man that he is, he ran up to Mandy and held out the park ticket, asking, “Sir, did you drop this?” When Mandy turned around, we were certain it was him. Our guide asked where he was from and he said New York, and we let it go at that.
As a New Yorker myself, seeing celebrities is no big deal and like most NY’ers we leave them alone, or maybe just say hi. So we didn’t want to bother him on vacation.
But Petra being a small-ish place, we ran into him again. My Step Dad just told him he was a big fan of his work. Mandy was gracious. We didn’t ask for photos, and just let him be.
Ok, I did snap this clandestinely. I'm human after all.
Throughout the day, we kept running into him and told him we were also from NY. What’s funnier, one of the women with him is actually from my neighborhood. Small world indeed! I had to go to the Middle East to meet someone who lives ½ a mile from me.
But we never imposed and things just grew organically.
Seize Your Opportunity
We were there to see the sites and so was he. Finally, I was coming down from this amazing temple and he was standing by himself outside of the bathrooms.
I waved and said hi. And then, since he seemed amenable, I asked who he was traveling with and why he was there. Turns out he was volunteering with the International Rescue Committee to help Syrian refugees at the Jordanian border and the women he was with worked for the IRC. We ended up talking for about 10 minutes, all of us together and he couldn’t have been nicer.
So why am I telling you this?
Because this is how you should be approaching your audience. Gaining trust and creating engagement isn’t something you can force. It takes time. Because I didn’t run over to Mandy and ask to take a selfie, I presented myself in an unthreatening way. I was simply another person, just like him. And once we kept interacting in that same way, he realized I wasn’t going to fawn over him and be fake. We had genuine conversations about things you’d have with anyone.
That is what your audience wants. To feel seen and be heard, but they don’t want to feel like you want something from them. They want to feel like you are developing a relationship over time. That you get them and you are just like them. How you message them, what your content says, how often you reach out — all of these things either attract or repel customers.