Know your audiences - and their dysfunctions

Camp Directors, in their daily work, call upon many of the skills routinely demanded of a well-rounded communicator: promotions, advertising, media relations, staff communications and business development. And they deal with some really disturbed people along the way.

Crooked small-town supplier: pulls up in a V10 supercab pickup, but can only provide Israeli canned tomatoes and Russian chipped beef. Preferred form of communication: No small talk, just cash.

Idiot Savant Camper: can wire pirated cable to the cabin, but never uses soap or a comb. Preferred form of communication: just IM his Treo.

Competitive parent : their kids arrive at sports camp with a copy of “the seven habits of highly effective people” and autographed photos of Pat Riley and John Gruden. Preferred form of communication: daily email, weekly newsletter, constant phone calls to the director, and regular visits to watch every sporting event.

Crazed groundskeeper: whether Carl Spackler at golf camp, or Groundskeeper Willy ... there's always a hint of mischief in their eyes - and the whiff of home-grown. Preferred form of communication: Quick verbal commands. Don't get pushy, and don't expect quick action.

Unwilling camper: can be spotted by eternal frown at the back of the pack. Prefers retro tshirts with suggestive logos. Preferred form of communication: Loud verbal commands and understated hand signals.

70s throwback music teacher: her license plate reads “JHN DVR” and she insists “Macarthur Park” and “Kumbaya” be sung at every campfire. Preferred form of communication: Passive and non-confrontational conversations.

Head Counselor: an unusual combination of natural leadership and subversive impulse. Can take forty kids on a three day canoe trip, and find a forty-pounder of vodka for the end-of-summer party. Preferred form of communication: A loud shout-out across the campgounds.

Lonesome Camper: easily spotted by the 180 page diary clutched to their chest. Preferred form of communication: Mix tapes with Liz Phair, the Indigo Girls, Elvis Costello and Alanis.

Camp Casanova: upturned collar on the Lacoste tennis shirt. Sebago deck shoes. Brings cologne on the canoe trip. Preferred form of communication: Plenty of empathic body language. Rhythmic verbal cadences. Handwritten notes on linen.

45 year-old Fantasy Camper: wants to know where he can hang his suitbag, and whether he can switch to a room with a mini-bar and broadband. Preferred form of communication: that young lady at reception.

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