Understanding your audience

Using the right words to connect with your audience can mean the difference between your message being on target or failing miserably. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing an e-mail to a friend after a disagreement, drafting a cover letter for a job application, or developing marketing copy for your company, how you write your communication should be driven by your audience.

Public speaking is an area where understanding your audience is paramount to be a successful speaker. Nick Morgan on his blog Public Words has great advice that all communicators should take to heart: “At the heart of great public speaking is understanding your audience. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you’re not ready to talk to them.” He says, “Understanding your audience means being able to go on a significant emotional journey with them. That’s the only journey worth taking in public speaking.”

If you are trying to motivate the recipient of your message to do something, you better go on that journey with them! Sales letters come to mind where you really need to use the lingo of the person’s industry but from writing website copy to attract visitors, to talking to your teen age son, choosing the words and phrases that resonate with that particular audience can help you better get the results you are looking for.

As you sit poised to pen that important message or have that deal breaking talk, start first by thinking about your audience’s profile. What is their age, which generation do they fit into (baby boomers speak a whole different language from Gen X’s), what are their interests/hot buttons, values that need to be addressed or avoided, their social class (people who join country clubs do not want to be talked to like the kid just graduating from high school!), and what industry lingo you should use or avoid.

In this day of casual e-mail and social networking communications you also might be committing a major blooper if your audience is of the old “formal” school. And if this is a business communication, you can never be wrong by going formal instead of using casual texting language. Your ultimate goal is not to just connect with your audience but to have them understand and relate to your message.

It all boils down to using the words that resonate with your audience’s needs, wants and desires. But you have to come from their “space” or else even if you use the right words, you’ll be perceived as a phony. Or worse yet, as talking down to them.

As the old saying goes, first “walk a mile in their shoes” and research your audience. Then develop a profile of your audience, aiming to use words that will connect. Lastly, add a dash of sincerity.

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