Monthly Archives: October 2014

… but enough about you. Let’s talk about me.

Tips to communicate with your audience

In the past 3 weeks, I said a lot about your audience, and what you need to do before you communicate with them. Specifically:

  1. Identify your audience
  2. Identify with your audience
  3. Connect with your audience
  4. Communicate with your audience

Sometimes, I think people want to start with “4.” But I covered those three up-front steps because “communicating with an audience” sounds active, but it’s really more responsive.

To communicate with your audience, you need to be responding to them, and you need to have a fresh understanding of who they are and how to identify and connect with them.

That you, you know what they want, and you can frame everything to meet those wants.

I hesitate to say you should meet their “needs.” People read what they want, and “need” might not factor into it. There’s plenty of information that people need, but don’t read. So one aspect of the creator’s role is often to plug the wants into the needs—to make ’em see and want what they need.

Now, for what you want to say…

If they’re looking for exactly what you have to say, it’s easier, but not a given. Connect to them as much as necessary, put things in their terms, and get them to what they want as quickly and clearly as possible.  Make lower-priority information available for reference, if needed.

If you’re trying to educate, convince, or call your audience to action in ways they weren’t seeking, then things get a little more complicated. That topic is too big to entirely cover in a blog, but here I want to give you an overview of how the three lead-in steps come together:

Make your points matter

For each major point you want to make, state it in a way that identifies with your audience. Why do they care? What need does it fulfill? What is the benefit for them? Can you give an example?

Even if you don’t use the example, it can help to keep it in mind as you write. Once you have all the dots (the points you want to make, stated in a way that identifies with the audience), it’s time to connect them.

Map your message

Look at all the points you want to make, and what your audience wants to read, and map it out. See where they relate to each other, and where you can create a path or paths that lead them to the best stuff.

This might be something like a content structure diagram for a technical writer, or a storyline for a copywriter. Either way, you want your information (your dots/points) to be as available as possible without derailing your audience’s connection. If you have existing audience data (like analysis of which pages are most popular on a site), make sure to consider it.

For shorter copywriting pieces, all of this is on a smaller scale, and it usually needs to lead to an offer or call to action. In that case, be sure to make that offer or action clear. Identifying with your audience does not mean putting the key offer/action in muddy, fuzzy, maybe-you-wanna terms. Clarify it. In a longer piece, close with a summary.

Here are some specific things to consider as you look for ways to make your information connect with what your audience wants.

Links

Use links to give readers options for connecting to the important points you want to make. That way, you’re not interrupting another topic to state your point—but you can still make sure that a popular or high-traffic topic doubles as a point of access to information you want to share.

Graphics

Think of ways to illustrate your information, so that it is more enticing for your audience, and so that you can visually put it in context with the information they’re seeking. You can also include it in the context of other popular information without breaking the linear text flow of that topic.

Headlines

Are there ways you can re-frame a headline or header to broaden it so that it includes both what your audience is seeking most along with a key related point you want to make?

To sum up:

Remember: Communicate “with,” not “to.” Keep your Audience Avatar turned on as you add and edit content through each review. Prioritize the messages your audience wants and use that capital to work in anything you want to share.

Go back and test, with your Internal Audience Avatar, and with actual readers if possible, to see if you’ve successfully identified with and connected with your audience, and brought them through your main points.