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What The Beatles Teach Us About Audience Engagement

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I’m a huge Beatles fan.

Always have been. Always will be.

I love the music, of course. But I’m just as captivated by the effect The Beatles had on their audience. At the height of Beatlemania, in the mid 1960s, tens of thousands of fans would wait hours at the airport just to catch a glimpse of John, Paul, George, and Ringo step off a plane! And the audiences at Beatles concerts were so loud and frenzied that they couldn’t even hear the music. Not a single note!

In other words, The Beatles were probably the all-time champions of audience engagement.

What made the Beatles so engaging?

So many things … Their music, first and foremost. But also their look, their wit, their album covers, their aura. The list goes on and on.

Now, you and I may never be able to achieve Beatles-level engagement with our audiences … But we can learn from The Beatles about how to maximize engagement:

1. Be Original. The Beatles weren’t just talented musicians and songwriters; they were also daring musical innovators. Due to their creative wordplay, unforgettable melodies, innovative harmonies, and overall performance, Beatles songs were instantly recognizable as Beatles songs. In other words, Beatles music didn’t just blend in and sound like most of the music being made at the time. It stood out, and because it was unique, it got people’s attention. The lesson is that you can and should try to make your messaging and communication unique. Don’t just send out rehashed versions of the same old messaging. Be creative and try connecting through a new channel, with different tones and styles and types of messaging. Because most people, including your audience, like things that are new and that they haven’t already seen before a million times. So, give your audience something new.

2. Be Awesome. Simply put, The Beatles succeeded because they were really, really, really good at what they did! Indeed, they were the best. And it wasn’t by accident. Sure, John and Paul, especially, had incredible God-given talent. (George and Ringo were talented, too … just not quite on the same level.) But The Beatles were also incredibly hard workers, honing their craft in their early days by performing up to eight hours a day, every day, in Rock ‘n Roll clubs in Hamburg, Germany. And that combination of drive, dedication, practice, and talent that ultimately made them unstoppable. And so, the lesson for business communicators is to put in the work and hone your craft! Don’t settle for being pretty good or even very good. Strive to be the best, and understand that getting to be the best requires constant practice and performance and never resting on past accomplishments.

3. Keep It Fresh. A big part of what made the Beatles so interesting and engaging was how they grew and evolved from album to album. At the height of their fame, The Beatles could have coasted and kept pumping out the same old stuff. Instead, they pushed themselves to keep innovating. Which is why no two albums sound the same. No two songs sound the same! Every song and every album has its own unique tone and vibe. Strive to keep your communications fresh by treating each memo, webinar, white paper, podcast, and video as a unique, stand-alone piece of content that looks, feels, and says something at least a little different than what came before. Push yourself and your team to innovate!

4. Know Your Audience. One often overlooked element of The Beatles’ success was that they had a deep understanding of what their fans wants and what mattered to them. By the early 1960s, with WWII 15 years in the rearview mirror, young people were ready for something new and fresh. They were full of optimism about the future. And The Beatles, having grown up in Liverpool in the 1950s, knew it. They felt it and lived it. And so their music embodied the sense of joy and newness that was in the air, and it connected with their young fans in a way that was deep and lasting. For marketers and internal communicators, the lesson is obvious: the better you know and understand your audience, the better able you’ll be to craft content that engages them in a deep and lasting way. And getting to know your audience means meeting and talking with them on social media and, when possible, in person (post-COVID, that is). Again, the better you comprehend what motivates and drive your audience, the better equipped you’ll be to engage them in a ways that’s authentic and personal.

5. Have Fun! If you watch footage of The Beatle’s early performances, one thing that’s immediately obvious is that they were having a whole lotta fun! I mean, who wouldn’t have a blast playing raucous music in front of adoring fans, all the while earning tons of money and becoming super famous? (Eventually, The Beatles fame became overbearing to the point that performing was no longer fun, which is why they quit touring. But that’s a whole other story.) And the fun The Beatles were having permeated their songs, which were filled to the brim with an infectious, joyous energy. If you can harness even just a bit of that sort of creative, fun energy and inject it into your communications, you’ll see your audience engagement spike through the roof. Because, simply put, people like to have fun and be entertained!

There’s so much more we can learn from The Beatles about audience engagement. In fact, I’m already planning a follow-up post. But for now, the overall main takeaway is that engaging and audience doesn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Achieving Beatles-level engagement, or anything close to it, requires careful planning, a ton of hard work, a dedication to excellence and innovation, and never feeling satisfied.