Even if you're serving the same group of customers, their needs may have changed. This may mean having to change some deep-rooted beliefs.Ireland is my home. However, there are certain things about Ireland that drive me crazy. For the sake of my mental health, I avoid buying a newspaper. Whenever I come across a news program, I reach for the remote.
It's not that I don't care about the affairs of the nation. I just feel that the Irish media is married to misery. I got out of a taxi five minutes ago where I was forced to listen to the latest instalment. It was all about "spiralling crime rates" and how things are going "out of control".
Here is a recent heading from The Irish Times: "Unicef says Irish child poverty among worst". Six paragraphs of lambasting Ireland follow, and in the seventh, it states that Ireland ranks ninth out of the 21 countries measured.
For a long time, Ireland's biggest export was people and our biggest industry misery. We did misery better than anyone. We made millions off miserable childhoods (Angela's Ashes). Only an Irishman (Samuel Beckett) could say: "I can't go on. I won't go on. I'll go on." Then in the Nineties, all changed, changed utterly, a tiger economy was born. Like a March hare, Ireland bolted from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to being one of the richest.
Unbelievable things began to happen. People actually started coming to Ireland looking for work (instead of their ancestors). Irish people were still leaving but this time on winter skiing holidays or to buy a summer home in France.
Most Irish people I know have adapted well to the shock of prosperity. However, there are still some sulking in the corner. There are a few who are bitter about not having much to be bitter about anymore. Many of these must work in the Irish media.
The Irish media longs for the stereotype of the drunken Irishman mired in poverty. It yearns for the good old 1980s when factory closures were soaring and emigration was roaring.
Those were the good old misery days, when the cynic was seen as sensible, and to be bleak and negative was to be utterly realistic. People lapped up the bad news because what else was there to do? The Irish customer has changed but I don't think the Irish media has.
"Our primary customer is a male businessman in his forties," a web manager from a large organization stated. The audience of about forty employees nodded vigorously in agreement.
A hand rose from the back. "Actually, we have done extensive annual studies over the last eight years, and in fact our primary customer is a woman in her twenties." Shock and silence; disbelief. Times had changed but the stereotype hadn't.
Knowing your customer is the first thing any web professional must do. The best way to know your customer is to regularly interact with them, while keeping an open mind. But before you can do that you need to know who exactly it is you need to interact with.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.