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How to understand your audience in order to make informed content decisions in 3 easy ways

Have you ever wondered how to understand your audience in order to make informed content decisions? This is important when preparing any communication piece so you can include the right subject matter and decide how much to include.

Deciding on the right content

A poorly informed content decision risks losing or confusing your audience. And it can undermine your chances of achieving your purpose and supporting your overall business outcome.

This applies whether you’re writing a short email, video script, document or delivering a presentation. And any other type of comms.

Before taking time to understand your audience, make sure you have clarified your purpose and understood how it is supporting your business outcome. This will help frame the process for understanding your audience.

There is a lot you can do to understand your audience. However, there are three easy ways to understand your audience that will set you on a great path to make informed content decisions in order to create great comms:

  • Needs, attitudes and wants
  • Education or experience level
  • Best media

Let’s take a look at these and discover why they can help you make informed content decisions.

Learn your audience’s needs, attitudes and wants

Let’s say there’s only time for one thing to understand your audience. Then this is what you must do: learn what your audience’s needs, attitudes and wants are.

To understand why, let’s first look at each of these elements:

  • Needs are what you must have before you can do something important for yourself.

For example, I may need to have a car so I can drive to work. It doesn’t matter what car, just so long as it can get from A to B.

If I don’t have this car, I can’t get to work. So it’s, without doubt, a need.

  • Attitude refers to your general outlook on a particular subject.

The focus of this attitude can be towards the subject of the comms piece you are about to develop. Or just your general state of things in life – either at work or home.

The attitude can simply be positive, neutral or negative.

  • Wants refer to something you would like to have but don’t need to have

This is best understood in contrast to a need. For example, I might want to have a $100k Tesla car so I can drive to work. But I only need a car (such as a Honda Jazz) to get me to work.

Why is this information so important?

Give’em what they need

An important part of using content in comms is knowing how to make it compelling. You want to keep it engaging so your audience gets your whole message. Most discussions around making your comms compelling centre on word choices, phrases, headings and glossy layouts. These are all valuable, but before you get to this point, there’s something else that makes it easy and powerful to create compelling content … give your audience what they need.

It’s not rocket science. TV and radio have been using that principle to draw big audiences since the beginning of time. When they give their audiences what they want, they get a good rating because people tune in.

The same thing applies in the far less lofty world of communication from sending emails and giving presentations down to writing for the web. You can see how the principle works as follows.

Picture a musician who is about to audition for a jazz band that knows she needs to improvise over minor ii V I chord progressions… but can’t. She desperately wants to be successful and knows she must demonstrate an ability to solo seamlessly over these complex chords. In this case, do you think she would wade through a long and tedious article that promises the answer? And this is before e talk about word choices, phrases, headings and so forth. Yes! If she knows that by reading it she will get what she needs to excel at that audition.

You can use the power need to make your content relevant and compelling. That’s why understanding your audience’s need is a powerful piece of intel. Think of your audience’s needs concerning the subject you’re communicating and the context they are operating in.

Take into account their attitude

Everyone has an attitude that influences how they will receive your message. If you fail to take that into account when delivering your message, you could set up a roadblock to your purpose straight away.

If writing about a new procedure that everyone dislikes in an organisation in an overly positive way, you could create cynicism from your audience. Delivering the message neutrally would be more effective.

You can’t choose the best tone to deliver your content if you don’t know your audience’s attitudes.

Give them what they want to build goodwill!

Finally, not everyone gets what they want. That’s a fact of life. But when they do, they’re usually pretty happy as a result and develop a positive attitude.

When it comes to developing comms, it’s not always possible to give your audience what they want. But if you can – do it! This applies to the content you include. You’ll build long standing goodwill.

Map out your audience’s education or experience level

The second point in how to understand your audience in order to make informed content decisions relates to what your audience knows.

It’s easy to assume a reader knows the background to your message or has expertise in the topic you are communicating. Yet often they don’t have a clue. And when you make assumptions about their knowledge, they get confused or tune out from your message.

It’s also just as easy to mistakenly assume your audience doesn’t know pertinent information and then waste valuable time covering it in your comms. For example, explaining how to remove a power point to an experienced electrician is simply patronising them. Or providing too much background information to a busy executive who already knows the information wastes their time. You’ll lose authority and they’ll tune out from your message.

Confuse, patronise or waste an audience’s time creates a roadblock to your message and achieving your purpose.

The best way to avoid this is to know your audience’s knowledge or experience on the subject you are communicating on. Then choose content that speaks to where they are at. Don’t risk making assumptions!

This is the first step in how to understand your audience in order to make informed content decisions.

Find out your audience’s favourite media to consume messages

Remember that the “aim of the game” is for people to consume your message. Since people prefer certain media for getting their information, using their favourite medium increases your chance of delivering the message successfully.

So, find out what your audience’s preferred method for consuming information is. Then try using that medium to deliver your content. Remember to consider the context at which they’ll be receiving your message when considering their favourite medium. A favourite medium for information at work can be different to a favourite medium at home or on the go.

(The only caveat for this is that an audience’s favourite medium may not be available in the context you are delivering your message. In that case, choose the best available medium. Also, consider within an organisational context what media is considered the best media for sharing different types of information.)

How to understand your audience in order to make informed content decisions

When considering content for your communication, this is how you can understand your audience in order to make informed content decisions:

  • Understand your audience’s needs, attitudes and wants
  • Discover their education or experience level in the subject matter of your comms
  • Find out what their favourite media for consuming messages

Answers to this will help inform your content decisions and get you well on your way to developing engaging content that helps you achieve your purpose.

You can learn more about how to understand your audience in the Bullseye Method, which will help you make informed content decisions in order to create effective comms. Or explore consulting and coaching services to help improve your overall comms provided through Con Moto or Halls Global.

How to understand your audience in order to make informed content decisions
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