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Understand audience

While on holiday in the Solomons I sent David a text saying that my English was broken, but that he shouldn’t tell the boss! This tired old jibe worked because I understood my audience. Imagine telling a paranoid, micro-managing, hovering boss that I seemed to have lost the skill for which he employs me … the humour might’ve fallen flat. In any writing task it’s important to understand audience. In the old days of letters on paper in envelopes with stamps (remember?), we wouldn’t have dared written the same news in the same way to our pen friend as to our grandparents.

This cute comparison shouldn’t obscure or belittle the challenge that we face today – of understanding our intention and communicating in the right way to the right people. With so many mediums and levels of communication available, it’s easy to get muddled in the crossover or not find time to concentrate our attention. But early thinking at this point saves time, effort and money.

A few quick questions can focus our thinking on audience:

  • Am I trying to reach existing readers/clients/customers or discover new ones?
  • Will a one-size-fits-all story/release/page suit your objectives? (Probably not.)
  • How should the potential audience be divided? For example in-house staff, existing clients or the blogosphere?

It’s important to know who these people are – their interests, how they access media and their specific demographics. Knowing these people in as much detail as possible will guide your crafting of the message.

Align your understanding of audience with your intention and the words should come easily. You’ve already worked out to whom you’re talking, how you’re going to say it and why you’re telling them. In every day life, we do this pretty well – we just have to expand our verbal skills to the written world. Not least of all so that our weak jokes don’t fall flat.