How to Be an Audience Advocate


Do you advocate for your audience — really? For many brands in the events business, the honest answer is “We say we do, but we don’t.” Too often, companies put together events and create customer experiences in order to tell their audience how great their brand is or will be without really understanding what their audience needs. You’ve suffered through these kinds of events. I know I have. The solution is for brands to focus on creating value and being accountable, consistent and simple.

Being an audience advocate does not mean ignoring your own needs when you design an event experience, whether you’re updating your employees on your corporate financial performance or entertaining key business partners. After all, you have business needs of your own and are accountable for delivering an experience that will meet those needs.

Rather, audience advocacy means empathizing with the needs of your audience as you design that experience. Audience advocacy means shifting your mindset away from “How many of my executives can I cram into the agenda?” to “How can I design a great experience for my audience?” Audience advocacy means thinking like an architect who designs a home around the needs of a specific family.

We can often find great examples of audience advocates with forward-looking retailers whose job it is to create experiences that create customers. For instance, Starbucks is acting as a strong audience advocate as it builds a presence in Beijing. Starbucks empathizes with its audience, especially by understanding that a generation of today’s consumers in China grew up as only children. Consequently, 24-hour store in the heart of the cosmopolitan Taikoo Li Sanlitun district of Beijing is designed to encourage children without siblings to interact with each other — for instance, mood lighting and decor impart the vibe of a social lounge, which encourages patrons to turn off their personal devices and interact with each other. The Starbucks at Taikoo Li Sanlitun demonstrates audience empathy in action.

The good news is that you can be an audience advocate like Starbucks in your own way. The key is embracing value, accountability, consistency and simplicity:

Delivering value means understanding what your audience wants to know, feel and do. Delivering value starts with using techniques such as focus groups and surveys to really learn about your audience before you design an experience. Regardless of the technique, the key is to really listen or hear your audience’s voice and then design an experience that reflects their voice.

Accountability means being accountable to deliver what you promise. If you promise to motivate and inspire your audience with an important corporate update, the content you deliver had better be positive, not a clumsy attempt to whitewash bad news. Your audience will know it when you are not accountable. And unaccountability, or not delivering on promises, will fuel apathy within the same audience you’re trying to motivate and inspire.

Consistency means being consistent with all the ways you deliver the experience to your audience. Does your audience receive a consistent message when they interact with your brand on social media, your website, and at the event venue? Does the behavior of your event staff accurately reflect your brand?

Simplicity means paring down the experience to its essence. Don’t confuse or overwhelm your audience with distractions and information that is unessential. Design the event experience focused on their needs, based on their voice and your passion for really hearing them.

Audience advocacy delivers results. By being an audience advocate, you will build a stronger bond with your audience as well as a stronger brand. In fact advocating for your audience will differentiate you in a crowded field. Your brand is what your audience believes about you. Differentiation will occur because you are designing and creating an experience so specific to the needs of your audience that you are aligned uniquely with each person in his or her mind. In other words, you’ve allowed your audience to define you. After all, doesn’t your audience own your brand?

This post was originally published on the One Smooth Stone blog on February 25, 2014. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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