In telling your story, know your audience
It’s a basic, but important, lesson: In telling your story, know your audience.
When I taught “Introduction to Mass Communications,” the 101-level survey course at a college, I’d open the class for the first few weeks by writing large on the blackboard: “Who is your audience?”
This is important in any communication. If you don’t match the message to the audience, there’s not much point in even beginning. Your writing won’t go anywhere.
But in the ad business there are two audiences. We need to get inside the heads of the client company to make sure we’re conveying what they want to say. And we need to know the client’s customers to make sure we’re saying what they want to hear.
Now, I knew an advertising writer once who freely admitted he was writing for his “book,” the work samples he’d use in getting another job. Wrong answer. Absolutely.
And I’ve known plenty of people who wrote for their boss. Understandable. But wrong again.
The correct answers are two I saw in a couple of advertising journals.
An interviewer asked the CEO of a major publishing group about competing media. “I try not to ever think about competition,” she replied, “I think about the customer.”
Another interviewer asked an ad agency’s new creative director about his immediate goals: “I’m really trying to immerse myself in our clients’ business needs,” he said.
So while “Who is your audience?” is not really a trick question, it’s not always as easy as it seems. It’s the critical place to begin. But then we need to look deeper. We’re looking at both sides of the buying and selling equation. And we need answers for all our audiences before we can tell the right story.