It was a dark and stormy night … wait, no it wasn’t. It was late in the afternoon on a fall day, one of those days where summer is making its last bid for relevance, combining oppressive heat and humidity with the smell of fall trying to break through. Because it was towards the end of the day, I was finishing up my work projects in the hopes of leaving at a decent hour to tend to my life outside of work.
Suddenly the door flung open and my business partner arrived back from a new client meeting. He was happy and smiling, and after the obligatory bio break, he sheepishly approached my desk with a bag in hand.
We were partners in a medical education and communications company, and he was the face and credentialed one. Together we did the work, mostly ourselves, with a small team of programmers to help with the digital training and trade show programs we produced. Together we did it all, from writing and research, to planning and creative development, to regulatory submissions, and support.
But first we had to get the business.
And this was definitely his forte.
This new client was interested and excited about what we might be able to deliver. The client’s product was hemophilia product and they were to the upcoming scientific trade show season for their debut to the new audience.
But first they needed a creative treatment that would seal the deal.
My business partner reached into the bag and pulled out a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke, my preferred caffeinated beverage, and a bag of candy corn. He gently placed them on my desk. I looked at him with anticipation, filled with curiosity and concern. I could see the muscles around tensing, making the effort to not avert my gaze. He looked down.
The client wanted their story of the blood clotting cascade to be creative, funny, animated, and exciting.
That explained the bag of candy corn.
Identify the Audience
And so began my research. As a liberal arts student who majored in English and Spanish Literature with a minor in Classical Mythology, I was uniquely qualified to be a medical content researcher, designer, writer. Why? Because I simply knew nothing whatsoever about most of the topics that crossed my desk. I had to research and understand, quickly, for end-user audiences that while mainly had scientific backgrounds, weren’t fully versed in topics being presented. I had no preconceived notions or biases about the topics at hand.
But this one was different. This audience, this initial one being the client themselves, DID have expertise in this topic. This was their life. This is what they did every single day of their lives, and they were passionate and informed about it. In this stage, my audience was the experts in the field.
And I had to make the blood clotting cascade funny and animated.
The candy corn DID help.
Focus on the Audience Experience
My first reaction was likely the first reaction they experienced outside of their professional lives. I went with that. I hunkered down for research and writing. It was a long night but knowing the sugar high would only last so long, I knew I had one shot to get this down and completed. It was a long night and ended with a creative treatment for my partner to review.
The idea for the program I developed included elements of the NUTTY PROFESSOR, FAWLTY TOWERS, SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK, and other pop culture references thrown in. It was written in storyboard format to show how each scene would be illustrated. My business partner read it (he was a former cardiologist) and was cracking up at the description of the blood clotting process, and confirmed the science was correct.
I knew the work these scientists and researchers did was critical. It saved lives. Their new product would be a tremendous benefit for people worldwide. I also knew that my reaction to the excitement of the blood clotting cascade was likely not unique. The world should appreciate and understand better what these folks do for all of us, what they contribute to our lives, without us even realizing it. And their work IS fun and interesting.
They needed to hear that and see that. After presenting it to the client, my partner told me they loved the idea and we got the project.
More importantly we got their appreciation, and they truly felt the respect and admiration we had for them.
Audience targeting is about validating.
Everyone needs validation.