A big misconception is that when you’re new in town, there’s no way you can be in the loop. You’re a stranger and can’t possibly know what drives the passions of the townies. This isn’t true.
How to know their concerns
I have a neat trick that I use to quickly come to speed with what issues people consider important no matter what town I’m visiting. I scrutinize the “letters to the editor” section of the local paper; this is something that public relations experts do often. As for me, I learned the lesson when I was studying for my masters in mass communications at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.
How I stay in the loop
I live in the Hudson Valley, and a few weeks ago I came across this excerpt from the “letters to the editor” page of The Journal News:
“In a recent act of glaring irresponsibility, the Board of Commissioners of the Monsey Fire District voted to turn off the air horn (on top of the Monsey firehouse) that alerts firefighters to an emergency.” (The Journal News Feb. 27)
Another letter was about Pete Seeger’s connection to the Hudson Valley. The writer, Herbert F. Geller, states “My family and I have such good recollection of Pete Seeger over the past 50 years. To us, Pete will always be the spirit of the Hudson Valley.” (The Journal News Feb. 27)
The hook into the loop
Someone from out of town could read those letters and know that firehouse issues and Pete Seeger’s legacy are important topics to some of the people in the Hudson Valley. He or she would be confident that they could engage in a thoughtful conversation with anyone at the local café or pub.
Steal this trick
The next time you’re out of town, go ahead and pick up the local paper. Check out the “letters to the editor”, and for a bonus look at the Opinion section above the fold. You’ll be so tuned in with what’s hot in town you might win yourself some friends.