Know your audience

“Know your audience” is such classic advice about effective communication that it’s almost a cliché. That’s why it’s amazing that so much employee communication is not audience-focused; it’s created for the preferences of the senders (executives and initiative owners), not the needs of the employee “customer” on the receiving end.

That’s why I was glad to read Michael J. Katz’s blog about Justin Bieber . Mr. Katz, head of a consulting firm Blue Penguin Development, if focused on helping professional service providers promote their offerings, always delivers good advice in a clever way.

In this issue, Mr. Katz grabs the reader’s attention by claiming to be frightened by Justin Bieber (which makes you wonder, “Really? What’s that about?” and want to keep reading) and then proceeds to (eventually) tie his Bieber story to his core message: The audience matters most.

Mr. Katz recommends thinking about the audience as “a single person.”

“There are a lot of people who might read whatever it is you're writing. The problem is you can't write well when trying to address a nebulous group. When you pick an individual (real or fictitious, it doesn't matter), on the other hand, to represent the quintessential audience member, you now have a fixed point to which you can target your words. This makes the writing easier, keeps you away from jargon, and helps you determine which things need explaining and which do not (e.g., "Do I need to first review what a lug nut is, or does this person already know?).”

To make sure your communication rings true with your audience, Mr. Katz suggests reading your writing out loud. It’s so much easier, he says, to “write in an understandable, authentic way when you test it out on your own ears as you go. If it sounds odd or unnatural when you hear it, it will read that way for your audience as well.”

The bottom line? “Good communication – written or spoken – is authentic, targeted and appropriate for both the audience and the situation. Don't write a single word until you first determine who's on the receiving end.”

Great advice. 

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