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November 3, 2014
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Darius RuckerConnecting with your audience is key in any communication, whether it’s a concert, a speech before a business group, a political debate or a media interview.

At a recent Darius Rucker concert in Phoenix, he wasted little time personalizing his performance.  When he tossed a guitar pick to a fan in the front row, who then didn’t catch it, he said, “Larry Fitzgerald would have caught it.  I know.  I’ve got him on my fantasy football team.”  Fitzgerald, a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, is arguably the most popular sports figure in Arizona.

Later, a backdrop of the University of Arizona logo, followed by a Seattle Seahawks helmet (one of the Cardinals’ biggest rivals) with a red line through it, followed by a Cardinals helmet, followed by an American flag further cemented his demonstration of knowing his audience.

It added to what was a tremendous performance.

A number of years ago when I had assisted in arranging for Harvey Mackay to speak at the PRSA Counselor’s Academy Conference in Phoenix, he reached out to me in advance of his speech.  He wanted a few fun facts about some of the higher profile members who would be in the audience.  Mackay incorporated them into his presentation – and the crowd felt as if he really connected with them.

We’ve also seen it with public office candidates.  Most recently, I saw Arizona’s Secretary of State Ken Bennett during a gubernatorial debate demonstrate his knowledge of the audience.  In his closing statement, he dropped the names of real people in various towns and cities around the state – and mentioned what he would do to help them.  He didn’t win in the primary – but I felt he had the most personal connection during that debate.

And then, while conducting a media training session a few days ago, I was playing the role of a reporter doing a phone interview.  The client called me by name several times during the mock interview.  We coach that.  He used the technique to take the edge off what was a potentially controversial question.

We talk all the time about knowing your audience.  It’s refreshing to see others who do the same.

Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson
President Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Check out Scott's full bio

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