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Who’s the Audience and Where are they?

June 18, 2008

In response to Michele Martin’s post, Developing Work Literacies: Who’s the Target Audience?

I keep thinking about how information spreads. I’ve watched it spread online and know where to watch to keep up. I found the phrase that was going round the web a few months ago interesting: “News finds me!” and it’s true that web-savvy people set up networks that push the info they’re interested in at them. But what about offline? How does information spread there?

I thought about this yesterday as I picked up some cookies in an upscale market. There was a cooking show on the screen you could watch while waiting in the cashier lineup. Free ideas for meals! I thought about how people get inspired to learn while I was in an Apple Store attending a free workshop. The session had too much information to learn effectively but you could see the possibilities of Keynote, especially if you were familiar with PowerPoint (I am) and if you’d already played with Keynote (I have).

(An aside: if anyone knows how to change the font of a theme for the whole show rather than one slide at a time, I’d appreciate the information. Same thing with setting transitions for the whole show rather than one at a time. Other than those, I love Keynote.)

I thought about how people pick up ideas to try out while listening to friends and my husband discuss cooking shows. Then I thought about the strategy of a used car saleman (I think they know audience behavior;->) I used to teach with. When our office layout was changed, he always ended up next to the coffee. He said that it was the communication hub. They don’t have department coffee spots any more where I used to work; they have a Tim Hortons and a Second Cup. Maybe a Starbucks too by now; I haven’t been on that campus for a couple of years. The principle continues; people now meet in the coffee line-ups and chat. And there are notices, ads, and even screens with slideshows repeating themselves positioned around the lineups.

Word-of-mouth is powerful and can be stimulated by well-placed, well-designed media. If flyers and ads on the benefits of web and computer applications were as omnipresent as cooking shows and essay mills, if people were alerted in line-ups to one simple, short series of actions that could make their work easier or more interesting, wouldn’t that speed up the adoption of Work Litracy behaviors? If the posters or shows were rotated a couple of times a week, so there was both novelty and repetition, …

If there can be coffee franchises, why not Work Literacy franchises? Or have I gone too far into fantasy land again?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Virginia Yonkers permalink
    June 18, 2008 8:20 am

    Joan, what you described is the “water cooler” effect. I have an acquaintance who works at IBM and he said they are now looking into how to capture the knowledge lost by virtual teams that used to be generated in these informal conversations.

    I can tell you where they are with the younger generation: on facebook. In discussing facebook with my students, I realized that these are the types of conversations they have on facebook–nothing too deep, a bit gossipy, a bit silly “ideas”. The problem when you move into the business world is that these conversations are now recorded and could be used against an employee. So back to the question of how to build relationships and learn informally from others without “going out on a limb” to the point that it breaks.

  2. June 18, 2008 8:43 am

    Joan, I like this idea of promoting work literacy through well-designed media in strategic locations and settings. I wonder what those messages would look like? Do you think they’d be like the “how to” cooking shows in line at the grocery store, showing people how to engage in certain work literacy tasks more effectively? Would they be pop-ups on people’s computers at key moments? I definitely think that one issue would be keeping things short and sweet–little sound bytes that people could latch onto and feel were do-able. I think one of the problems is that we all feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information, so part of our job is making things more easily digestible.

  3. June 18, 2008 10:43 am

    This is an interesting idea. Like Michele, I wonder what the message would be, but if we are really talking awareness – this is awareness – and it reaches people who are not seeing the flow of information through other means.

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