Know your audience.

OK, this seems a little like common sense, but recent events at work suggest otherwise… so here goes. Take a little time to figure out who your audience is, will ya? This is not difficult really, only costs a few minutes of your time and means EVERYTHING in terms of how you craft your message. (Because — um, hello! — how are you going to know what to say if you don’t understand to whom you’re saying it?) Think about:

  • Who cares about this subject? (Identify specific groups, committees, departments, project teams, etc.)
  • What are their demographics? (In other words, are they men or women? How old are they? Where do they live?)
  • What makes them tick? (What are their values? What’s important to them? Consider political leanings, environmental perspectives and their understanding of technology, among other things.)
  • Why do they care? (What are they getting out of it? It always comes back to the WIIFM — What’s In It For Me?)

So, here’s a hypothetical: Your employer establishes a new “quiet room” for employees. It can be used as an infirmary, but its main intent is for lactating mothers. You certainly could send out one blanket communication to all employees. But would you get more bang for your buck if you created a special message for the lactating mothers, highlighting the room’s features and guidelines? If you take a minute to think about this segment of your audience, you realize they are going to be concerned about safety, privacy and whether the room will be open when they need it. If you know those are the concerns, your message might pay special attention to the lock on the door, the “in use” sign and the scheduling policies. See what I’m getting at here?

All I’m suggesting is that when we consider our audience FIRST in everything we write and communicate, we can predict what will be important and where to concentrate our efforts. We can also anticipate when a message won’t go over so well. We see little indicators of sensitivity and overhear exchanges that help us anticipate problems. And — here’s the key — we apply them in advance so we effectively address those problems from the outset. Our messages can always benefit from the kind of thinking that yields insights about the audience in question.

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