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Interpretation Principle 1 – Relate

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Note: This is the third in a series of posts about the relationship between the disciplines of public relations and interpretation.

“Any interpretation that does not somehow relate what is being displayed or described to something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile.”

Freeman Tilden’s first principle of interpretation, as outlined in Interpreting our Heritage, is that we must meet the audience where he or she is – physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

Tilden writes:

The visitor is unlikely to respond unless what you have to tell, or to show, touches his personal experience, thoughts, hopes, way of life, social position, or whatever else. If you cannot connect his ego (I use the word in an inoffensive sense) with the chain of your revelation, he may not quit you physically, but you have lost his interest.

In your daily work as a communications professional, how can you better relate your company’s message to key audiences? Please share your thoughts or ideas.

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Written by Tracy Winchell

December 8, 2008 at 11:39 am

One Response

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  1. The “relate” principle is so key to our success as public relations professionals. As communicators, our messages are in danger of ringing hollow if we don’t engage audiences with tangible and personal appeals that meet them where they are. Case in point from the journalism world is the overwhelming number of feature stories found in the daily paper today. No longer is there just a section called “Features” as in years past, but it seems that even the most straightforward news stories on Page 1 begin with an audience-grabbing angle that take the reader from the personal and specific to the bigger picture. As communicators, we must always ask the fundamental questions, “Who is my audience?” and “Why do they care?” While sometimes it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in your own message from your side of the desk, your message won’t translate to the desired action if it doesn’t pass the “So what?” test.

    Allison B. Walden

    December 8, 2008 at 3:06 pm


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