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Fall in Love with Your Audience

Post from the 2011 Conference in Boston

by Stefan Lanfer, Barr Foundation

Audience, Oh Audience, How do I Segment…No, Scratch That. How do I LOVE Thee?

After her prepared remarks (including song, stories and unmistakable authenticity) the first question Ambassador Swanee Hunt faced was an awe-filled, “How did you do that?” Our colleague in the crowd wondered aloud how Hunt had shared of herself so honestly, so easily, and in a way so intimate that it felt like she was speaking to each of us in our living room.

In reply, Hunt said it had something to do with “falling in love” with her audience. I was really struck by that.

How reflexively in communications we talk about segmenting audiences – cataloguing wants and needs and concerns and motivations, to help us craft messages we think will resonate and stick. It’s a sensible approach. But it isn’t exactly an act of love.

Swanee’s comment made me wonder what would change if our starting point were not to segment our audiences, but instead to fall in love with them.

I don’t know quite what that would look like and I hope you’ll share ideas in the comments below. But I suspect that whatever communications result from a process that starts with love couldn’t possibly feel condescending or patronizing. It couldn’t play like ivory-tower declarations from us on high with the answers for you down there with your problems.

Because love makes it about us – as in, all of us.

And so maybe love is the secret sauce for making what Eli Pariser challenged us to make on day one of our time together in Boston (here, here and here), which is a revolution that is irresistible.


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