Hint-full Heloise cleans up at understanding her consumer
Ponce Kiah Marchelle Heloise Cruse Evans, of "Hints from Heloise," which runs seven days a week in more than 500 newspapers in the United States and internationally.
By Randall Kenneth Jones
Dear Me: I recently accepted the daunting task of writing a column on one of the most famous columnists of all time: the ever-helpful, hygienic and habitually hands-on Heloise.
"Hints from Heloise" runs seven days a week in more than 500 newspapers in the United States and internationally. Additionally, Heloise is a longtime contributing editor and monthly columnist for Good Housekeeping magazine and has appeared on countless radio and television programs.
As Heloise has reached the pinnacle of success in our field, I'm feeling a bit intimidated. Plus, she stands for cleanliness, and I'm not exactly a tidy guy.
My dilemma: How do I pull off this column without Heloise wanting to clean my clock?
Dear ImEx: Well, you sound a lot like me. In fact, we could be one and the same. :-)
To begin, Heloise is never going to clean anyone's clock — she'd never resort to fisticuffs. That said, she knows how to get blood stains out of practically anything.
Simply follow Heloise's lead. As her "hints" are often the result of readers' queries, just anticipate the questions that your audience would want to have answered. Come to think of it, this advice applies to virtually any type of effective written or verbal communication.
Having recently spent several hours with the reigning Queen of Clean — both on the phone and at her recent book signing at Jennifer's Boutique in Fort Myers — I suggest the following hints to maximize your column's impact.
1. Include her full name.
Ponce Kiah Marchelle Heloise Cruse Evans. At a minimum, your reader will better understand why a single moniker makes more sense.
2. Explain the difference between Heloise — the mother — and Heloise — the daughter.
When Heloise Bowles Cruse, the original "Heloise," had the idea to write a newspaper column for "housewives," she approached her local newspaper in Honolulu and offered to work for free for 30 days if they would take a chance on the concept. "The Readers' Exchange" subsequently launched in 1959.
In 1961, King Features Syndicate convinced Heloise to syndicate her column with a new title, Hints from Heloise.
By 1962 the column was running in 158 newspapers. By 1964 it appeared in 593 newspapers in America and abroad.
The irony? By appealing to women, Heloise, the publishing giant, became a dominant force in the "man's world" of the '60s and '70s.
Daughter Heloise began working for her mother three years before the elder Heloise passed away in 1977.
Though daughter Heloise lightheartedly describes her boss/mother as "straight out of the movie 'The Devil Wears Prada,' " she eventually understood her mother's seemingly Machiavellian motivations. When daughter Heloise officially took over her mother's column, she was prepared.
"I was raised in a 'Heloise' household," she says. Good thing, too. She has gracefully nurtured the beloved Heloise brand — and honored her mother's memory — for almost 40 years.
3. Discuss her role models.
As so much has already been written about her mother, talk about her father.
Though Marshal "Mike" Holman Cruse chose to take a back seat to the mother/daughter Heloise fanfare, Heloise is quick to tout his importance: "There would not be a 'Heloise' without my father. If he had not encouraged my mother, she never would have done it."
The benevolent Cruse would also steadfastly support his daughter's work for the remainder of his life.
4. Don't list any specific cleaning or organizational hints.
Heloise has already written several books on these subjects — let your reader buy them. Rather than obsessing over her potential to "clean your clock," focus on what makes her tick.
My first telephone conversation with Heloise lasted two hours — and that was simply to schedule an appointment. Why so long? Heloise is a hoot — she guides you from polishing silver to rollicking laughter in an instant.
Furthermore, she lives in Texas — a state that understands what "a hoot" means.
5. Provide observations as to how she interacts with others.
It's critical for all business people to understand that the end-users of their products and services are very human, human beings.
When Heloise comes face-to-face with her consumers, she shines brighter than vinegar-and-water-treated window glass.
For example, at her book signing, she did much more than meet, greet, sign, repeat — she assumed the role of perpetual host. The four-hour event evolved into an anecdotal stand-up routine — one that played out in front of a rotating collection of euphoric neatniks.
Here are a few of my favorite bon mots from the day. Whether they are original to Heloise or repeated from other sources doesn't matter: It's all about her animated, spot-on delivery.
- On her mother: "We never called her 'mommy,' it reminded her of 'mummy.' "
- To techies: "When I ask you what time it is, don't tell me how to make a watch."
- To picky eaters: "You can be a vegetarian and still eat crap."
- To Corporate America: "A camel started out as a horse that 'went to committee.' "
Finally, to men in general: "Housework is genderless."
Heloise is universal. We all have something to clean: a house, a car or even those proverbial cobwebs in the brain. (I'd like to think my column's hints help with the latter.)
In truth, Heloise's decadeslong success is not due to her knowledge of household cleaning and organization; it's a reflection of her genuine connection with — and respect for — the people tasked with those duties.
Her process? "I am observant. I enjoy watching people," Heloise says. "I craft my column based on what I observe." The people actually drive the column, not the reverse.
Just as her content is meant to assist people to care for their most personal possessions, Heloise is at her best when it gets personal — when she's in the presence of her beneficiaries.
Even working alone at a computer, Heloise is emotionally tethered to her fans.
Regardless of the forum, Heloise engages her audience by speaking to them — not about them. Her true talent is compassion — an act no one can accomplish with just a broom and a mop.
At the end of the day, Heloise and I overheard this comment: "She treats everyone as if they are her best friend."
She quickly turned around and declared: "But they are!"
For Heloise, a friend in need is, quite literally, a friend in deed(s).
For more on marketer, creative consultant, writer and motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones, visit RandallKennethJones.com.
Republished with permission from the Naples Daily News.