One audience to rule them all?

I worked out recently that whenever we create or communicate something, there are actually three audiences. 

Trying to serve them all can be exhausting and confusing. Putting one ahead of the others is liberating but it has to be the right one.

Let’s start with the wrong ones.

Audience One – that’s us

We’re the first to see and judge what we’ve created. Even when we try not to, we can’t help assessing our work from start to finish. And it’s natural to want to meet our own high standards and our aspirations. But this usually means we focus on what we think people should know – and not only is it not doing them any favours, it’s not helping us either.

One of the world’s top speaking coaches bombed as a TED speaker because he focused on what he wanted to tell the audience. That meant he tried to cram in too much and then had to speak really fast to get through it in four minutes. (It’s not all bad though – John Bates uses his failure to help others be better TED speakers). 

Audience Two – they’re the gatekeepers

Audience Two is what’s standing between us and the people we want to reach. We’re serving Audience Two when we get too focused on meeting the needs of a particular platform (like Facebook or Instagram) or on pleasing the people who can grant us access to that platform (like a podcast host). We lose sight of the people we should be serving. Yet it’s so easy to focus on a person or platform because they’re right in front of us as Maureen Helen commented after reading my article on being a better podcast guest.

Audience Three – the one that’s just right.
The people who read or watch or listen to what we have to say are the third audience. So often they come last in our considerations because it can be a struggle to get to know them. Sometimes they’ll leave a comment or send an email but mostly they don’t make direct contact with us, especially in the early days. This is when we need to go with our hunches, casting about for anything that will give a clue to what they might want or need from us.

Cherish everything you learn about the people you write for. Love them.  Over time you will build a picture about what they want to know and how they want to feel. 

And here’s the best bit – when you serve the third audience first, you’ll make number one and two happy as well.