Know your audience
This post is focused on grappling with how to present one’s self to an audience when when working in the public. Written in a very broad and general way, this post is directed at those currently participating in a DoOO pilot project at St. Norbert College. Public presentation and work will differ depending on context and discipline and you should work with your professor, classmates, and those who you identify as your audience to get feedback. See the todos at the bottom of this post for more focus on this.
Know your audience
Often we are told that the key to any kind of work in the public is to “know your audience”.
It makes sense on the surface. If your audience are the ones who will give you what you want – be that sales of a product, a job, a political or committee appointment, some number for a follower count, etc. – and you know what they want you can tailor your messages to meet their needs.
However, do we only exist for the benefit of others? What about projecting our own identity and being who we want to be?
On one hand we have Eva Chen the Director of Fashion Partnerships at Instagram saying:
Build a lifestyle around your brand, and the audience will follow
And on the other we have David Bowie saying:
All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it.
Depending on your point of view these two quotes can seem very different or that they are basically saying the same thing. One thing they both have in common is that they highlight the relationship between identity and audience.
This is the hard one. Knowing yourself is a process. Some say no one else can give you the answer but at the same time you are not an island; we are shaped a little bit by the influences that we have around us. At the end of the day, crafting your digital identity will change with your own growth and learning as well as the context of where you are at in your life.
If you are actively looking for: a job, investors, acceptance into an academic program, or any other opportunity… you may choose to present yourself in a way that emphasizes some things over others. People are complex and no matter how we try you can’t represent the entirety of who you are on a resume, CV, or website, so you need to choose what to highlight. The nice thing about digital spaces that you own is that they are flexible and you can edit and take things down as they meet your needs. Though you can change things you should remember that others can take screenshots or otherwise capture the web that used to be.
Precautions of public work
You also need to realize that just because you have an intended audience that does not mean they are the only ones who may be coming by your site. Your site might be shared between friends or picked up on professional networks for a variety of reasons and from different contexts. Just by being part of a DoOO project at St. Norbert your site may be seen by those of us who are also working in the project.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how things can problematic on different levels.
Recently, around the ironing board in the Tech Bar we have been talking about the right to use images and the fact that if you are using images and other media that are not your own you could be in violation of copyright. The question of if you are likely to be seriously prosecuted for such a violation is one way to look at this but “being caught” should not be the only concern. Using images illegally has implications in terms of the law but it also has concerns in terms of how your audience perceives you. This can come off as unprofessional especially when there are so many ways to use free works. Choosing to use media illegally rather than choosing free, properly cited material can come off as being ignorant of how these things work – or just lazy. If you don’t already know about these free and legal ways to use and share media then take some time to get familiar with Fair Use and Creative Commons licenses.
Finally, you should keep in mind that your site could be visited by those who have more of an interest in exploiting you or your platform and really don’t care about you as a person at all. Using WordPress has its perks for being one of the more used platforms on the web but this also means that it has more vulnerabilities. Our todo list below has you take some steps to protect your space.
This week we will focus on issues of audience including:
- Identify some people who you think would be great reviewers of your site once you get it ready. You don’t have to actually ask for a review yet but identify who would be a good reviewer. What makes a good reviewer? Well there is something to be said for those who are accessible – others in your pilot group, your family, etc. but try to identify who your audience is – potential employers, grad school advisors, recruiters, etc. Make a list of people who can review your site and give you feedback once it is a little more polished.
- Familiarize yourself with Fair Use and Creative Commons Licenses – see links above – do some googling
- By default WordPress installs your site on an http protocol but it is much more secure to use an https protocol. If you did not change this on install use this help documentation from Reclaim Hosting to check your site and if it is not set up on https then follow the steps to complete this.
- The comments section on your site is a place of vulnerability. There are tons of bots that look for WordPress installs to spam their comments sections. The Akismit plugin can help to block this spam and it is installed in your site by default. Let’s use this week to activate the plugin and get it working on your site.