Lessons from the lake: Know your audience

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Going up the creek…with a paddle.

“Storytelling is how you reach people where they live.”

-Brian Clark, Copyblogger Media, Authority Intensive 2014

This has become a motto of sorts for me, ever since I first heard it at an incredible live event my partner Mike and I attended in Denver, Colorado earlier this year.

I think about it often as I sit unplugged and disconnected from technology at my camp out in the wilds of N.W. Ontario. This escape is a large part of my own story. It’s an enormous source of inspiration and where many of my stories come from. I like to think that what I learn here and teach to others who visit is meaningful, relevant and useful.

Even though they’ll always listen to our stories, the reality is that not all of our guests care about the same things as me and Mike.

There I admit it.

Many times We (with a capital W) have been guilty of letting our passion for our place in the wild overshadow the wants and needs of our audience. And I rant to my clients all the time about the importance of understanding your audience!

Who knew that a canoe ride on a windy day would be less appealing than curling up with a good book in front of the indoor fire?

Or that the gorgeous clouds on the horizon are invisible to the guest who is blinded by the mosquitoes swarming around his or her head?

Dancing in the rain? Sounds charming but with no electricity to dry hair and clothes, likely not going to get us a five-star rating.

Haul some wood? Are you kidding? This is a VACATION! Surely it will all be there when we actually need it?

It’s taken a few years, but we have finally wisened up to the fact that we need to do a better job of thinking about our audience and their needs for these cottage gatherings. There’s lessons to be learned for business owners as well.

Happy Camper checklist

Who is the audience? Is this the annual family get together with people of every age, a more adventurous crew or kids who come bearing tech toys and attitude? Food, services, activities and “toys” will need to be planned to address budget (ours and theirs), physical abilities and attitudes.

✔Clearly communicate the action you want your audience to take

✔Provide details so they know what to do (and it’s easy for them)

✔Speak to the audience in language they’ll understand

✔If appropriate (and necessary), segment your messages for each audience

What’s the problem they need your help in solving? Are there a few new paddlers, friends or family who need to reconnect, a guest who can’t sit still or one who doesn’t want to move? While it’s not all up to us, we work to consider what problems our guests might be bringing or encounter during their stay.

✔Assess the situation

✔Identify risks

✔Consider solutions that address all concerns

When are they coming? Our camp offers different year-round activities and we love them all. We’ve learned however that some of our guests aren’t as enamored with cuddling up to a wood stove (our only source of heat) when it’s -45C. Still others just can’t stop counting mosquito bites or measuring the degree of their sunburn at +30C.

✔Establish timelines

✔React to the market conditions and opportunities

✔Be prepared to be flexible

Where will everyone stay or spend their time? Weekend invitations usually consider the amount of accommodations and activities we have available. In some groups it’s every man, woman or child for themselves. However, when we have elders or guests we arent’ as familiar with, we need to consider more specific and formal arrangements.


✔Be adaptable

✔Consider concerns, limitations and strengths

✔Make them comfortable!

How do we keep everyone engaged? Guest stays over a few days usually start to push the limit in keeping everyone happy and participating in the natural gifts that our cottage offers them. At this point, a trip into the neighboring town is usually warranted but not desired by everyone. This is when we usually reach out to our guests and hand some of the “entertainment planning” over to them, including giving them space to do their own thing.

✔Recognize milestones

✔Identify gaps

✔Let the audience choose

✔Be open to new ideas

How do you measure success? We know we’ve succeeded when the hugs and smiles of our departing guests are bigger than when they arrived. Sometimes this isn’t the case and we need to assess what we missed and how we can do better next time.

✔Establish baselines

✔Set measurable goals

✔Pay attention to the results

✔Determine how you can do better

✔Build on strengths/positives

✔Celebrate your success

So smack me with a paddle the next time I suggest a hike when the thunderclouds start rolling in. Mother Nature is and always will be the best teacher of all. I’ve learned to take my cues from Her.

This is a fun look at the importance of planning for your audience. I will be writing about this in future articles. It’s the most important component of any media, marketing, content or weekend getaway strategy.



Comments 7

  1. pdrysdle@kenora.ca'

    August 2, 2014, 3:45 pm

    Love it Leanne I can relate to some of them

  2. Leanne

    August 18, 2014, 7:49 pm

    I bet you can Patti!

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