It's a great day to talk about love. With luck, you're looking forward to flowers, candy, an intimate dinner and all the makings of a romantic evening.

But before the festivities, I'd like to talk to you about a different kind of love--the love that helps you successfully communicate with all people you want to reach, from customers to team members.

Of course, "know your audience" is one of the oldest tenets of communication. The concept, of course, is that the better you understand the demographic profile, needs and preferences of the people you're trying to reach, the better you can design communication that will actually get through to them.

However, I've found that just knowing your audience doesn't go far enough. In order to break through today's noise and nonsense, you have to go well beyond knowledge:

You have to love your audience.

Like Tina Turner, you may well ask, "What's love got to do with it?" The premise is this: If you feel separate from--or worse, superior to--the people you're trying to communicate with, you'll never be effective at engaging them. You've got to sit right down at your audience's messy table, and order yourself (and them) a beer.

Your love has to be real--not manufactured or manipulative--and unconditional. You have to clearly see your audience members' faults, but love them anyway. Your love has to be unwavering, despite your audience's inattention, inconstancy and even infidelity.

Only by truly loving your audience can you communicate in a way that's truly about them, not about you. The leap to loving brings you in touch with what matters to people. Suddenly you're able to communicate in ways that profoundly connect. You're not on the other side of the chasm from your audience members: You're right there next to them, talking softly, saying what they've always wanted to hear.

All this talk about love, and we can just picture you squirming in your chair. But the "love your audience" concept is pragmatic as well as philosophical. Far too often, we see communication that's so attuned to the needs of CEOs (or someone's immediate boss) that it is unintentionally disrespectful of the intended audience.

Need a practical application of this principle? Let's talk about the words you use to communicate.

For example:

  • Jargons, acronyms, technical terms or corporate speak--all seem like a secret language that the audience doesn't understand.
  • Using communication channels, especially technology, that audience members aren't comfortable with--makes people feel dumb
  • Static, one-way communication--gives people the sense they're being "talked to" with no way to participate, interact or give feedback

By getting to know your audience, finding out what your audience really cares about and, most important, accepting audience members for who they are, you will communicate based on unconditional love.

Once you take that approach, as Lennon and McCartney wrote: "There's nothing you can do that can't be done."