Audience, Access, Advertising

James Norwood Pratt and Jacqueline Carly

The mysteries of this new world are many. If the old way to fame was to build a big audience while restricting direct access, the new way is to pursue a small audience and grant much more access. But those, friends, are two of the most important knobs to learn how to twist on this strange and futuristic machine. But let’s not forget that third knob over there, the Ghost A: advertising. Are you trying to do something in this new world? Does it matter that others see what you do? Then, it might be worth thinking about how these three particular forces work for you. And, for entertainment’s sake, let’s start with the third of these, first.

Advertising: The Ghost A

In the past, advertisers spent a great deal of money to access certain communities. These communities, by the way, gathered most often around some form of entertainment. Listen to the radio? There were advertisers there, hoping you loved Groucho Marx enough to tune into the Bird’s Eye Open House. Move to television? The Ed Sullivan Show had many suitors. The same rings true today. Advertisers still seek those who understand how to build a caring audience, dare we even hope for a community. But how does that work?

Audience: The Almost-Excellent Word

An audience forms when you entertain or educate (or perhaps both). A street busker knows how to play a few notes and draw a few eyes in her direction. Perhaps you represent yourself, and are a consultant hoping to book more clients. Maybe you are the manager of a marketing team, hoping to gather more interested customers to see your wares. Or perhaps you’re a true performer, seeking to gain attention (and the spoils of such) for your art. Then audience is your almost-excellent friend.

A quick aside: I say “almost excellent” because we all know that community is far more valuable than an audience. See also: the difference between someone who buys a Tiesto album and Lada Gaga’s army of Little Monsters

The requirement for audience used to be that it was very large. But this is the least true detail of this magical new world. We don’t need 1 billion users. We need some far smaller number (1000?) to satisfy our needs. Further, the audience has given notice: they aren’t interested in being called “you guys” any longer. They all have names, and they want you to know them. All of them.

That an audience cares is now quite important. That an audience understands matters in most cases. An audience is so much more important than ever before, but not in bulk. You need just enough. And they want access.

Access: The New Equation

In the old world, one of the qualities that made people successful was the inability of “normal” people to reach them. This exclusivity, this lack of access, for whatever reason also bestowed that person with magical powers that somehow translated into other kinds of power. If you were “big” or “famous,” no one should be able to reach you. This has shifted powerfully.

I have been blessed to meet and communicate with some amazing people from strange and varied walks of life. I’ve spoken with Sir Richard Branson, the owner of over 300 companies (and counting), with personal development guru Tony Robbins, with the former Chairman of General Motors, and with many other fascinating people. The picture that accompanies this post is from a visit Jacq and I had with James Norwood Pratt, the world’s foremost expert on tea, as well as a historian, a poet, a spiritualist, and many more titles. (Jacq and I interviewed him here, and you should check that out).

Granting access has become, for all of these people, part of the next chapter of their success. By learning how to interact differently with people, in person, and also via these social channels, these people are growing a whole new kind of success. And that’s just the beginning of what needs to be understood with Access, because you must also learn to use these platforms to grant access to those who seek to learn from you, as well. Ah, see how tricky this can be?

The Three A’s Require a Lot to Tune Them

Should you wish to find some level of success (and please use that word to mean whatever you seek: money, new church followers, new listeners to your great songs, someone to consider buying your soap), learning how to court an audience (shhhh: and also to help turn them into a community), how to work with the new rules of access, and to understand what works and what doesn’t in the realm of advertising are the vastly important Three A’s that should become your dials to experiment with and calibrate.

You’ll note that we didn’t talk much about the meat of what it is you choose to do. Though that would be the most important part of what you’re working on, the point is to consider how audience has changed, how access is now something far more important to work with, and how advertising is not nearly as effective these days without an audience who cares and feels that they have access to you.

The mechanics of this? I’ll cover that in my FREE newsletter that goes out every Sunday to those people who have the most access to me. Want it? I’d love to share.

But what else do you wonder about this? Does this resonate? How have you worked with these three levers? runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Ryan Hanley


    I feel like the easiest “A” is access yet too many small businesses focus on what is the perceived easiest “A” advertising when trying to build a Audience.

    With a limited Advertising budget I’ve found that Access is by far the best way to build an Audience. Even in the smallest since of the word… Like showing your personality in a corporate blog.

    Thank you for some great thoughts.

    Ryan H.

    • Chris Brogan

      Agreed, Ryan. Access, granting it, is what a business could definitely do better. Think of this in the abstract and the direct. Customer service is simply a company providing access to people for purposes of help. It’s the least acceptable use of time, according to most businesses.

  • Christopher Somers

    The name of my real estate company is REMAX Access : ) . I really like the “access” part .

    • Chris Brogan

      Cool! : )

  • fem

    With a restricted Promotion funds I’ve discovered that Accessibility is by far the best way to develop an Viewers. Even in the tiniest since of the phrase… Like displaying your character in a company weblog.

  • Matt Medeiros

    In the world of building new web presence for folks, access is the new support.

    Access to learn how to run a business, market a business, and sometimes just be that shoulder to lean on when times are tough. We have clients telling us about their own personal struggles with running their startups etc.

    This kind of new access/dialogue has replaced the “common cold” question of “how do I update my site again?”

    People want to interact on a whole new level now.

    • Chris Brogan

      You raise an interesting question: does your client want you leaning on their shoulder?

      • Matt Medeiros

        We rarely lean on our client’s shoulders, but that would be interesting.

        • Chris Brogan

          Or bad. Right?

          • Matt Medeiros

            Now that I think about it a bit more, I think it depends on the client…

            We recently redesigned John Morgan’s site and I leaned on his shoulder a bit for marketing and promo advice. Even though I coach others on the subject in my space, it’s always helpful to get some wisdom from others outside of the space.

            You don’t want the air getting stale and all…

  • The Areté Guy

    Chris this is so right on for any business. With a small audience (raving fan customers) you can achieve anything! Great ideas. Thanks so much. Glenn

    • Chris Brogan

      Ah, but I might have to go back and write a new post about why “fan” is killing your chances for success. Thanks! : )

      • The Areté Guy

        I think I get what you mean but I look forward to what you have to say! Thanks I think its similar to why audience isn’t quite right either the communication can’t be – at or to – rather more like with.

        • Chris Brogan

          Just that “fan” means you consider yourself above the person. A community is a gift that you have the pleasure and honor to serve. : )

  • Nathan King

    I think you’re spot-on here. You raise a good question to marketers: how can advertising help build a community? Can a one-way channel turn into two-way conversation? Twitter’s hashtags have done this for a few major brands.

    • Chris Brogan

      I think it CAN help, but only if it’s PART of a satchel of tools. Know what I mean? It can’t work alone.

  • leapingmac

    ‘if you treat a community like an audience they will respond like an audience’

  • Christina Cruz

    Access is actually one of the reasons that I love LinkedIn. A business can do so much with it by starting a group where people can talk and have discussions with the managers and the heads of companies.

  • Stephen Kavita

    I believe that before you create a blog you really need to research and know your target audience preferences. This will help you to offer your visitors exactly what they are looking for. As you all know, readers first want to know whats in for them when they land on your site.

  • Ayaz

    Great post and worthy tips and if you did a proper research about your keywords and your targeting audience you can get the great response from your visitors initially. Thanks for giving great resource full advice. :-)

  • Priya

    Good post- I think there is a balance to strike between the “i” of the audience needs and the “we” of the community needs

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  • Shaun P Kunz

    Thanks, Chris. It has just occurred to me that I participate in a community. And that it serves to promote and sell a book. Because we all enjoy it, and it has open access, we promote it. HOLY SHIT! We provide the Advertising by posting our stuff with her link on our sites…, the Access is on three different popular networks, and audience, this thing grows weekly……

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