Saturday, January 15, 2005

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Huebner 1 15

A Radically Audience-Oriented Approach to Writing

According to a recent article about presidential politics, words are what give a president his power. This would not have been true in Napoleon’s time (he was a poor speaker) but in the age of mass media, leadership comes through language. George Bush, though not a good speaker, the language he uses, and even mistakes, may contribute to his appeal, or his tough talk and confident attitude may be the source of his appeal to certain audiences.

Where does the communication take place? What determines whether a piece of communication is good or bad? When the message is delivered, the communication is complete, and can be judged; the communication happens in the mind of the audience.

In Jeff Scott Cook’s The Elements of Speechwriting and Public Speaking, the author says, “Worry less about what you want to put into the head of your audience, and more about what is already there!” In marketing, the approach is to think from the outside in, rather than from the inside out; it’s the idea of seeing things from the audience’s perspective. In film The War Room, the sign on the wall of the Clinton campaign Little Rock HQ said, “It’s the Economy, Stupid”, which kept the campaign narrowly focused on the voters’ perspective.

Lee drew a beaker/chemical mix analogy; to get 3 different solutions to turn red, different chemicals must be added. Different messages must be given to different audiences.

Outside-in, not inside-out. It’s about learning, not teaching. It’s the Audience, Stupid! Know thy Audience.

“I know how you feel” = Empathetic Communication and Rapport

Empathetic communication worked well for Bill Clinton, who felt others’ pain, and Rudolph Giuliani in the aftermath of 9/11.

The play was a great success – but the audience was a failure. – Oscar Wilde

Who is the audience? How do we know what is going on in the head of the audience?

We often encounter mixed audiences; Nixon hated to give State of the Union speeches, because he had to deliver to a television audience, and a Washington/government audience. Every government department submits ideas for the President to include in the speech; the speech is often described as a “laundry list”. Nixon gave a written document to Congress, which was the traditional way to deliver the State of the Union, and delivered a speech for the television audience.

Demographics – age, gender, location, income, et al

Sociographics – Qualities of mind and personality, e.g. Myers-Briggs test. This is helpful with a larger audience, because it indicates social status groups. Johnathan Robbins invented Claritas, which breaks the American population into 40 groups.

Psychographics – Breaks groups up into lifestyle/culture choices.

The top speeches of 20th Century:

1) MLK - I have a dream
2) JFK - Ask Not…"chiasmus" used in the famous phrase
3) FDR - Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself
4) FDR – Live in Infamy…Pearl Harbor
5) Barbara Jordan 1976 speech to DNC
6) Nixon – “Checkers” speech


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