I value the role of traditional research, such as surveys and focus groups, in uncovering an audience’s wants and needs. However, there is no substitute for in-person, face-to-face interaction with the people you are trying to engage. Too few content creators do it enough, and as a result, their communications suffer.
This week, I’m attending the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, Ky. With an attendance of more than 80,000, it is by far the largest gathering of professional truck drivers in the world. Parthenon has several employees attending on behalf of Road King, a 250,000-circulation magazine for professional drivers that we publish for TravelCenters of America. MATS is my favorite trucking event of the year. It is simply the best place for interacting with a large number of our readers. We learn their mood, their top concerns and the things they want the most. We always come away from MATS with story ideas that help us better engage our readers throughout the year.
We don’t limit our interactions with readers to a handful of tradeshows. We go out and meet them where they work and live. For our readers, the top spot to reach them is at truckstops. Our readers spend almost six hours a day at trucktops, eating, resting and getting refreshed for their next trip down the road. They also spend 22 nights a month sleeping in the cabs of their trucks – almost all of which are parked at truckstops. The magazine we publish, Road King, is distributed at more than 235 TravelCenters of America and Petro Stopping Centers across the country. I regularly visit these locations to find out what is on our readers’ minds and what they think of the magazine we publish. I also watch them pick up and read our magazine as a voyeur.
I know that we publish a better magazine because of our interactions with our readers. This is true of for all media platforms, print and digital. There are simply things you can learn from talking with your readers in an informal fashion that no survey or focus group can uncover. So, get out there and mingle!