Media theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the famous dictum, “The medium is the message,” meaning the characteristics of the medium fundamentally impact the message transmitted over it.

Though McLuhan’s insight is still relevant today, we believe that the most important factor that determines the success of your connection--with consumers, with constituents, with employees--is not primarily how content is transmitted, but who receives it, why it matters to them and what they do with it.

"The audience is the message," our philosophy, is not entirely a new way of thinking about communication. Rather, it's a mashup of classic communication theory which was lost and current practical communication methods.

It is classical in the sense that it dates back thousands of years to Greek philosopher Aristotle who wrote 'Rhetoric,' still today the most important treatise regarding the art of persuasion.

And modern, embracing popular mediums to move, collect and share messages like never before. Indeed only today, with tools like the internet and mobile devices that help us identify and reach audiences with near universal connectivity and efficiency are we able to graduate our thinking as communicators beyond just message delivery. It's time to think about who is on the other end of the line and how they will move the message as well.

Three primary tenets in our philosophy:

  • Audience-First

An audience is a partner, not a target. A growing trend in communications is to treat an audience as an object of study, a set of data points to be consulted in the boardroom. Any message built on this method loses a crucial ingredient: trust. Our philosophy, The Audience is the Message, treats your audience as an ally from step one. Using research tools drawn from both the social sciences and humanities, we listen first, secure allies, and collect the stories that already matter.


  • True Stories Matter

Myths entertain, but true stories persuade.  Artfully crafted, fake stories are used to advertise sensationalized brand value propositions to audiences in the form of talking animals, superheroes, fictional characters, and too many more. But as Aristotle recognized long ago in his Rhetoric, fake stories fail to persuade because they lack ethos or credibility.


  • Power Comes From People

Movements are made up of people inspired by a message. Focusing a strategy on the medium--on social media platforms, for example--misses the real force that moves messages: people. Our philosophy, The Audience is the Message, identifies the best messengers for a brand and its value propositions. And then helps them articulate their why and promote that message to the right people in the audience. Our philosophy, The Audience is the Message, understands that this process of building movements can be both macro and micro, inspiring many groups of few can make one larger movement. The power is with those people. At any moment, they can ditch a brand or leader. They demand and deserve information, transparency, support and ultimately fulfilling the promises we make through our services, our products, and our people.

Our "Audience is the Message" communication philosophy was co-authored with Dr. Leo Hoar in 2016 at the outset of OneNineNinety.