The Power of Knowing Your Audience

In Roman times, the author Juvenal wrote about the relationship between the populace, politicians, and diversions such as food and entertainment.


“… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things:  bread and circuses.”  from Wikipedia


What does it mean? There are two ways to interpret this.


First, voters in the state care more about enjoying the pleasures of life – eating and being entertained – than focusing on their stressors and on the mundane concerns of politics and governance.


Or, second, that politicians avoid having their proceedings (aka shortcomings) scrutinized by keeping the attention of voters focused elsewhere.


Perhaps your thoughts are turning to the American election and the theatrics employed by the new President and his supporters, yes? I would bet that the Republican campaign leveraged ‘bread and circuses’ to distract from their leader’s political shortcomings as much as the voters wanted diversions from their own economic difficulties.


It was a brilliantly engineered – if not contentious – win: to shamelessly attract public support through ethnocentrism (expressed under the guise of nationalism), classism, feigned empathy, and theatrics.


But surely there’s a lesson here for the rest of us. For those strategizing some upward mobility, for those with a battle or a war to win, for those with a petition to advance: we can’t all run a campaign on the scale of President Trump’s, but his success comes down to understanding the needs, triggers, and motivators of his target market. That’s not much different from what the rest of us need to do. Rule Number One: know your audience!