Know Your Audience

I wrote the article, below, for the Winter edition of the The Scrivener, published by The Society of Notaries Public of B.C.

Rock and roll Tofino surf; fragrant Kamloops sagebrush; restful Prince George lake country; rugged Cariboo cowboys; lush green Haida Gwaii cedar forests: these beloved B.C. icons create an array of visual and visitor experiences across our province.

Across B.C., we enjoy not only an range of very different geographies, but also a diverse societal mosaic created by the individual and common interests, values and traditions of the people who live here.

In the same way that we prepare for travel to different regions by determining the maps, clothing and other considerations we might need, we should also prepare to communicate with our different audiences by understanding their preferences, lifestyle and stage, habits, and interests.

Think of it this way:  if you were explaining how to get a glass of water to a child, you’d probably explain that they need to be very careful, hold it carefully, and pay attention as they fill it. If you were doing the same for an adult, you’d probably just smile and point out where the tap is. In our personal lives, we innately understand the need to adjust our words or actions–but it often takes more consideration in business communications.

Quite simply, effective communications are adapted to your audience.  Ask yourself: “What does this group need to hear from me to help them understand this information?” rather than “What do I want them to know?”

Consider the following:

  • What’s important to them?
  • How does the information I want to share relate to that?
  • What do they already know or think about my topic?
  • What questions will they have?
  • What’s the best way to reach them? What do they read, watch, listen to?

Various groupings of people have a few common interests and habits.  For example, if you’re hoping to communicate with 18 to 35 year-olds, you’ll have much more success using social media and mobile-compatible tools than Canada Post, and keeping your message short. Boomers might be best reached through web versions of traditional media or even radio as they rush around to meet the challenges of the “sandwich generation”, balancing the demands of caring for their kids and aging parents simultaneously.  If you’re hoping to reach seniors, statistics tell us they’re more likely to read community newspapers than Twitter.

Whatever method you choose, choose carefully to be sure your message and the way you’re sending it is relevant to your audience.

How can you reach the busy and typically underfunded student; the harried, generation-bridging boomer; or seniors hoping to maintain their independence, savings and health for as long as possible?

In communications—like travel—a little research, preparation and the right tools and language skills will make the difference between triumph and struggle.  Plan accordingly, and both can be enjoyable and successful whatever path you choose.