In 2008, architecture firms lined up for the opportunity to pitch their plans to build a new iconic baseball stadium in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. It was a dream contract, and firms clambered to win it.
While many of the pitches focused on design elements and amenities like a retractable roof, new-age materials, luxury boxes, enhanced concession stands, club seating, and other revenue producing features, one architecture firm took a different approach. One firm took a winning approach.
Populous, a global architecture firm, began by doing their research. And while their exploration inevitably included understanding the site, the city, the team, and attributes of state-of-the-art stadiums, it also included a critical yet often overlooked subject--their audience.
At the time of the pitch the Miami Marlins were owned by Jeffrey Loria, a distinguished art collector and gallery owner in New York City. This was the boss. This was the decision maker. And understanding that this was their audience led Populous to develop the winning approach.
Instead of framing the pitch around their innovative design elements, aesthetic vision, credentials, or past projects, Populous elected to frame the pitch in the language and ideas their audience loved; they elected to talk about art with Jeffrey Loria.
Populous focused on the stadium as “a piece of art.” They said, "For the first time, you can embrace art and architecture and baseball in one building form. It's not just the art in the building, but the building itself is a piece of art." They advanced the idea by likening the Little Havana neighborhood to a gallery where the new stadium would form the “gallery walls.” Finally, they crafted the memorable moniker, “Pure Art! Pure Color! Pure Baseball!” to define their approach.
By doing their research and taking time to learn about the Marlin’s owner, Populous spoke his language, framed their pitch around his passion, told him what he needed to hear, and ultimately won the contract.
What Populous did is what we at The Professional Communicators call an ‘audience audit,’ and it is a critical lesson to anyone trying to convince someone of something.
Whether you’re giving a sales pitch, conducting a client retention call, energizing your team, coordinating collaborators, persuading leadership to run with your vision, or inspiring potential investors, it’s essential that you understand your audience, carefully catalog their attributes, and deliver what they need to hear. You need to perform an audience audit.
While some speakers will short-cut this process and simply characterize their audience in generic terms--doctors, professors, company executives, regulators, potential investors, etc.--you should delve deeper. Take time to formally assess who they are, how they think, and what they believe. Research their background, biases, motivations, passions, and reason for being in your audience.
In a nutshell, your audience audit should:
List the common characteristics of your audience, including, age, education, gender, ethnicity, etc;
Catalog your audience’s common and collective interests and objectives;
Investigate whether your audience has any shared ideological or political ideals;
Define each audience member’s motivation for listening to you. Is there a common motivation or is it different for different people?
Identify subjects, catchphrases, terminology, and/or examples that are particularly poignant to your audience;
Understand your audience’s anxieties, fears, pressure points, and struggles, and contrast those with your audience’s hopes, aspirations, and shining visions. Define how you can alleviate the former and realize the latter.
Doing the investigative leg work on your audience and formally writing down the result will give you the understanding you need to speak their language, win their hearts, convince their minds, connect with them, and deliver a resonate message.
Populous used the audience audit to talk art, hit a homerun, and win a contract for a $515 million dollar baseball stadium. Now it’s your turn at the plate. What will an audience audit do for you?