Knowing your audience is only half the battle

I was at lunch with several co-workers a while ago. The company we all worked at at the time was one specializing in helping companies with their business marketing needs, so we were all well versed in the ideas of business and marketing, finance and retail, and each of us was both a generalist in marketing and an expert in our own particular niches. We can spout conversion benchmarks for any platform and dig blue ocean strategies out of seemingly nowhere on demand.

But this is lunch time.

Lunch was our break, when we talked about all things non-business, because that’s what a break is all about. It’s a chance to bond with co-workers and friends, and catch up on the latest pop culture interest and have a generally relaxing time away from work.

On this one particular day we were happily discussing the latest hot messes of reality shows, celebrity gossip and shoes sales (yes, we were females, so any discussion includes the latest shoe obsessions).  The president of the company saw us there and came over to our table to join us for lunch. This wasn’t unusual, but it always marked a turn in the conversation tone, and we tried to incorporate him into our discussions. We were beyond hiding our obsession with reality TV but compromised by not talking about shoes.

At a natural break in the conversation he decided to interject and said, “So I was listening to Buffet earlier, …” and I said, “Oh, Jimmy?”

He looked at me as if I had three heads, but tried to continue. The others had joined in at that time making Parrothead signs and sharing song lyrics and concert stories. So he just looked at me confused and lost. I smiled, inside and out.

The point is, he knew his audience enough to know that we would know, understand, and be interested in business and financial discussions, and probably were already aware of what Warren had been discussing. He didn’t understand the context, though.

And that’s the point. Audiences are made up of people, and people are not one, two or even three dimensional. You must understand the personality and interests of the audience varies based on the context in which you are interacting with them.

Later on the Warren Buffet discussion took place, back on work time when it was applicable and because he had to complete the thought process, but even then it was lost. In our heads was song  “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere”.

[note: for those who now have that playing in their head, and for those who aren’t familiar, here’s a link to the video to get it out of your system.]