Why Researching Your Audience Matters

In today’s media-driven culture, where we’re being bombarded with up to 5,000 media messages per day, our distraction level is off the chart, and technology has given us more choices than ever before.  Never before in history has it been more important to understand the person to whom our message is directed.  That’s why research is so critical. This is an illustration of a fictional transcript of an radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland.  It’s a good story about the importance of knowing the identity of the other side: 

 

Americans: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.

Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.

Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, THAT’S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER-MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.

Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

We’re blind unless we know exactly who we’re talking to….

I’m not a researcher.  I’m a producer and director of TV and film programming.  And I consult with churches and ministries to help them use the media better.

But rarely a day goes by that I’m not looking at some recent research, or reading a book based on research.  Because without understanding the culture I’m working in, the tools at my disposal, and the audience I’m speaking to, I might as well be whistling Dixie.

There’s a saying that if you think you’re a leader but no one’s following you then you’re not leading, you’re just out for a walk.  In the same way, no matter how great or anointed your message, if no one’s listening, you’ve failed.

To the researchers and intellectuals who are reading this – what you do matters.

To the rest of us – it’s time to start listening.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Michael Gonzales, Ph.D.

    I am a lighthouse to my students but some are blinded by their technology and believe because they metaphorically have their own GPS and know the latest high tech tricks they don’t need my advice. It’s only after they graduate and have landed on the rocks a couple of times that they call for help. At those times my head says “Sorry, out of service”, but in my heart they need help to change the world.

  • Clint Porter
  • Phil

    Thanks Clint.  Edit made.