Building an Audience Avatar
First and foremost, the role of a content creator is to communicate with the audience.
But before you wander off and start the communicating, you have to do some work up front. Communication comes at the end of this process:
- Identify your audience
- Identify with your audience
- Connect with your audience
- Communicate with your audience
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to work off of assumptions and skip steps 1-3 up front. Writing these things out can help ensure that you are intentional and consistent, and that all the stakeholders agree about exactly whom you’re trying to reach.
Of course, there’s a balance of time. We all work with time and budget constraints, so the key is to be fast and efficient with the up-front work.
So you start by asking: “Who is your audience?”
Ask the people that matter (whether it’s the subject matter experts, the big money people, or someone else), maybe phrasing it as:
“Whom do we need to reach?”
Better—to establish priorities, and avoid scaring people with your grammar-brain use of “whom,” ask:
“Who is most important for us to reach?”
That might be a market group, type of customer, person in a particular task, etc.
Make sure you capture various aspects of the audience. When you really start to spell things out, you might find some aspects you missed, or some disagreement among the stakeholders. For starters, list out your audience’s:
How much needs to be spelled out for your audience, and what do they already know? Make a statement that describes their general situation and pre-existing familiarity with the info.
You don’t have to build a whole glossary, but make a statement about what level of jargon is acceptable—maybe summarize what types of terms or tone you want to avoid, and what tone you want to have. For a big project that others might have to maintain and update, this can be the bones for a full-blown Style Guide that you refine as you go.
Mindset or attitude
What is their attitude? Is your audience in a hurry? Yes. Everyone is. But are they upset, or more curious? Do they like you yet? Should you offer tips or bonus info? Would bonus info make them happy, or distracted?
There are some important aspects to consider, and for most projects you just need to write brief descriptive statements for each one.
To sum it up:
Formulating statements that describe your audience helps you create an audience profile—sort of an Audience Avatar. Try to identify with the avatar, and internalize him or her. It’s kinf of like method acting, but you don’t need to dye your hair.
Really, it is important to internalize an audience perspective. So next, you need to identify with this avatar—more about that next time!