How Good Messaging Is Like Convincing An American To Eat Escargot

When I was 13 I took French at school. My teacher was a whiz at teaching the language but was also invested in teaching us French culture. We had lessons on the significance of la bise (the kiss on the cheek upon greeting a friend) and how to greet someone properly based on their relationship to you, we learned about stained glass and flying buttresses, we learned about the difference between Santa Clause and Père Noel. We also were given the opportunity to participate in a full-course French meal at a restaurant in Salt Lake City, Utah called La Caille.

La Caille is, in short, fancy. And as such a group of thirteen and fourteen-year-olds required a lesson in etiquette. An employee of La Caille visited our class to teach us the use of each piece of silverware, how to indicate we are finished eating, the order of the courses and their purpose, overall French dining etiquette. And most intriguing: how to eat escargot.

As a vegetarian the prospect of eating escargot was wrought with conflicting feelings. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to eat meat—even snail meat. However, I didn’t want to deny myself any scrap of authenticity of French culture.

For many other people, however, the dilemma wasn’t, “To eat meat, or not to eat meat?” The dilemma was, “Snails??? That’s disgusting!” It is no secret that snails—even buttered and garlic-infused snails—are not a typical part of American cuisine. So to encounter such a dish is often met with disgust.

Despite initial revulsion, most of my classmates (myself included) ate the escargot offered to us at La Caille. And most of us liked it.

How did that happen?

What it really came down to is messaging. In PR, messaging is used to relay to the public the key phrases, words, and intents that a company wants the public to hear. In the case of escargot that is consumed by squeamish adolescents, the messaging might have been, “Escargot is a French delicacy that should never be missed if you want to truly experience French culture.” Or perhaps the key message that worked for many people was simply, “Butter.”

Whatever the case, good messaging allows consumers to look at a product or event or idea from a perspective they might not have considered without it. Good messaging also ensures that your product or company is represented in the most accurate light, and that everyone involved is on the same page for discussing the company in the media.

If good messaging can convince a group of junior high students to eat snails, what can it do for you?