Trust Your Audience

Written by Justin Plant

It’s 2:12am in southwestern Georgia. I’m not even sure that I’m in a proper city… it’s pretty country (no Black Lives Matter signs here.) I’m in GA for my niece’s 2nd birthday party; but any more exposition, and you’d be missing the point.

I just drove 7+ hours while my son and wife slept. I enjoy this situation because I get to listen to audio books, which neither of them appreciate in their ripe young mentality. On this trip, I started a new book that I’ve been looking forward to: The Obstacle Is the Way, by Ryan Holiday – a person I respect very much by the way. I need to say that before I critique his writing.

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I only made it through 2 or 3 chapters of this book before I had to stop. While the Stoic lessons were much appreciated, I was entirely put off by the endless, tireless, repetitive explanations of each lesson. I fell back on a not-so-new title (at least for me), one that I’d purchased months ago, but haven’t put the time into yet: The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This is a book you must put the time into… and if you do make it past the prelude, mere moments into chapter 1, you’ll be hooked. At least I am.

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You see, the difference between these two books is this:

Taleb trusts his readers. He trusts them enough to lead them, but not hold their hand so much that he bores them. He challenges their current perceptions and beliefs. He offers an idea, supports it ⅘ of the way before moving on, asking his readers to fill the gap on the fly, and to proceed with him. He knows his audience is intelligent enough to make connections like that.

Holiday, on the other hand, is likely working with a more broad and novice crowd. He hasn’t narrowly defined his audience enough to trust them in specific ways. He feels the need, in each of his Stoic-based stories, to rephrase the lesson 4-5 different ways each time. There is no trust, there is no bond, there is only watery porridge that no one wants to eat.

I can go on and on dissecting each author, how they relate to their subject matter, and how that is displayed to their respective audience, but I know that’s not why you’re here. That, and I’m only a couple chapters into each book, and maybe I’m entirely wrong.

So how does this pertain to video?

You must have a very VERY specific audience. If you have a very specific audience, one that you know intimately, you are more likely to speak to them in the proper vernacular at the proper speed to keep them engaged. If you cast too wide a net (like Holiday), you will likely feel the need to spell things out in a way that will alienate your true audience in hopes of coaxing the peripheral fans. You’re sacrificing Purpose by watering down your message for the masses.

Lesson:

Define your audience as uniquely as possible, and speak only to them. Speak to a 1% of the population, not 70% or 50%, or even 10% of the crowd. Find that one face amongst the masses that connects with you, and nurture that connection. That’s the only way to maintain engagement with your TRUE audience. (Note: the other 29% that is interested will begin to catch on, and aspire to be a part of your tribe.)

Posted on August 17, 2016 in Production

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About the Author

Some people know Justin as a producer who wholeheartedly loves what he does. Others recognize him as an avid outdoorsman – hunting, camping, and exploring the world’s hidden gems. Still others are only aware of his status as a world-class athlete – competing in multi-sport events or other feats of strength, mountain biking, and dunking on you in basketball. Every fall, Justin grows a beard that John Lennon of The Beatles has called, “wonderfully prodigious.” He lives in Durham with his wife, son, and dog.

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