Who is Elvis Presley?


I did a double take when I came across a video with a woman looking at a picture of The King as she queries, “Who are you?” Turns out she knew who he was but hadn’t heard him sing a particular gospel song and was stunned at what he did with it.

But there are people, of all ages, who don’t know Elvis or Frank or Bing or other greats from the past.

Why do I mention this? To remind you that when you’re speaking or writing to a general audience, not everyone will know what you mean when you make a cultural or historical reference. And if that reference is important, it’s probably a good idea to add some context, to help them appreciate the reference and better remember your point.

If you “explain” too much, however, you risk a good portion of your audience rolling their eyes and thinking less of you for talking down to them.

“Of course Peggy Lee sang, ‘Is that all there is?‘ Who doesn’t know that?“

So, as a practical matter, you shouldn’t assume your audience knows nothing, any more than you should assume they know everything.

How do you find the right balance? You have to know your audience. And appeal to your ideal client rather than everyone who might visit your digital door.

If you’re writing about estate planning, for example, and your ideal client is in an older age group, don’t even think of explaining you mean Presley, not Costello.

Nor should you spend a lot of time explaining the need for estate planning. You can safely assume your readers know they need estate planning; that’s why they’re reading your blog.

Know your audience. Be aware of the need to explain certain things, but not others. Err on the side of explaining too much rather than explaining nothing.

And be cautious about using the phrase, “as you know”.