A Walk Down Memory Lane

I was recently home for the holidays when a car skidded to a stop in front of the house where I grew up. It was dark and way below freezing, and I was sitting around waiting for the car’s engine to warm up, which is a Pittsburgh pastime I will never miss.

So I watched this scene from a parked car on the other side of the street, like an undercover cop on a stakeout. The mystery man grabbed a bag from his passenger seat and whipped it out the window and into the driveway. As he threw it in reverse and zipped away, I realized he was delivering newspapers.

A rush of memories came back as I recalled being the paperboy for that same neighborhood about three decades ago. I inherited the role from my older sister. An overnight delivery driver named Mr. Hayes would toss fat stacks of The Pittsburgh Press bound in taut, plastic straps onto our porch long before dawn on weekends or while I was at school during weekdays.

A 9 Year Old Pitch Man

I can still recall that smell of fresh cut paper and the ink that smudged my hands and over the shoulder paper bag. Wednesdays were light with only about 13 customers, but you had to shove an insert in each copy on Hump Day. Saturdays and Sundays were heavy days, and we’d hang out the back of the family station wagon, drifting down each street in a precise routine around each scary dog.

Saturdays were also collection days. Each paying customer received a small square receipt, ripped from my roll of perforated and dated tickets. Some folks left the money stuck around the door in envelopes. Others made me knock and wait. But I loved collecting, especially when I successfully paid off my own Nintendo from layaway at a local store. The Nintendo came to $109 after tax. I was nine years old.

Maybe it’s not surprise that I ended up making a living by delivering messages so many years later, first as a journalist and then as a professor, author, speaker, and corporate consultant. Guess you could say I was in communications from the start.

3 Communication Strategies from Newspapers

There is money to be made for those who communicate messages well. And there are communication strategies we can learn today from that once dominant medium of newspaper.

  1. Great headlines matter.

We have to be able to grab people’s attention. Stand out with clear statements.

  1. Good copy has to be clean.

People will read good writing about anything, but they will stop reading bad writing even if they love the topic and hook.

  1. You’ve gotta evolve with your audience.

It once seemed like newspapers would never die. But times change, and those old paper boxes I used to stuff rusted away and vanished.

What does this all mean for those of us who want to succeed as entrepreneurs? We must communicate as boldly, briefly, and clearly as we’re able. Whoever and wherever your audience is, they’re busy and moving faster than that delivery guy in my mom’s driveway.

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