The Audience is the Message


Media theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the famous dictum, “The medium is the message,” meaning the characteristics of the communication medium shape 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 investors, with employees--is not how content is transmitted, but who receives it, why it matters to them, and what they do with it.

we believe

The Audience is the Message

"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 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 influence and persuasion.

…Means of persuasion are either (1) in the character of the speaker (ethos), or (2) in the emotional state of the hearer (pathos), or (3) in the argument (logos) itself.
— Aristotle's Rhetoric


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. 

We believe it is time to think first about who is on the other end of the line, why a brand matters to them, and what will stimulate them to take action and share their story with their network. The messenger becomes the message.


Three guiding principles



An audience is a partner, not a target 

A growing trend is to treat an audience as a set of data points to be dissected. Any message built on this method loses a crucial ingredient: trust. Treat your audience as an ally from step one. Using research tools drawn from both the social sciences and humanities, listen first, secure allies, and collect the stories that already 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 more. But as Aristotle recognized long ago in Rhetoric, fake stories fail to persuade because they lack ethos or credibility.


Audiences have influencers that matter

The 1-9-90 Rule (our namesake) applies to influence in communities; 1% creators, 9% engagers, and 90% consumers. Just 10% reach the community organically and are the so-called influencers. A message strategy must be built for the 10%, not the entire audience.