There is a lot of focus on reaching your audience these days, which is important. But the nature of your audience defines the way you communicate with them. If your organization has an established audience then you need to get to know them. If you are creating a new audience then they need to get to know you. If you are leading your audience, then you have captured their hearts.
Building Your Audience
Whether you are launching a new organization or introducing a new product or service, you engage in audience building at some level. The goal here is essentially to assemble a tribe of advocates, customers, or donors. You are reaching new people with a new message. If your message is worthy then the right people will want to connect with you, but you are building trust and awareness from the ground floor, especially if you are launching a new brand.
Things are exciting here, and you can feel like a potter molding clay. There is a great opportunity to shape your audience by adjusting your targeting and message. Your tribe begins to mirror the virtues that you project, but they may not know you well enough yet to take action on your behalf. It is important not to push too hard.
Serving Your Audience
This has to do with communicating to an established tribe, individuals who know you. Expectations have been formed, culture developed, and patterns defined. In many ways you are on top of the mountain. However, trying to change direction can be as challenging as moving the mountain. The way to make progress is to better understand your audience and give them what they want. You move in the direction of audience tendencies and feedback.
This is standard operating procedure for many successful brands, but it is a framework that makes innovation difficult.
Leading Your Audience
At the place where building and serving meet, you will find audience leadership. This is the crossroads of creative energy and strategic administration. This is the best of both worlds where you are leading an existing audience forward while empowering individuals to grow and change with you. There is excitement here and people are willing to take innovation risks along with you because of your existing relationship. Look before you leap, but do leap. Before they follow, people will want to see that you are going somewhere exciting.
There is a progression from building to serving to leading. To be successful, you need to communicate differently at each stage, and not linger too long before becoming an audience leader.