Clarifying your purpose for better communication

clarifying your purpose

Have you ever thought about what’s going on in your mind before you begin an important piece of communication?

This is before you write a blog, speak in front of an audience, record a video message or create another communication piece.

Whilst there are lots of things that we might think about before starting an important communication, there is one thing you need to do first that is critical.

This “thing” is probably not what you think.

It’s not a series of positive mantras like “I am going to be successful in my speech, I am going to be successful in my speech…” And it’s not necessarily memorising or copying phrases you might want to draw on when writing. Or internally practising the body language you want to display to build rapport.

This thing comes down to want you want to achieve through this opportunity to communicate.

Introducing “purpose” – and why it’s so critical to communication success

Whenever you are communicating in a situation that counts – usually business but also personal – you need to know what success is. You need to know why you are communicating.

You need to have a purpose.

Without a clear purpose, you can never really know if you were successful. You can lack focus. And you can waste a great opportunity.

Having a clear purpose is like a small rudder that steers and keeps you on course.

To be great as a communicator, the first thing you need to get involved in before developing a communication piece is in clarifying your purpose.

This principle applies across any kind of media or in any kind of situation. It applies to big-ticket communication items down to the smaller impromptu moments.

Writing down a purpose

So if clarifying your purpose is so important, how do you do this?

You need to think of your purpose as a mission statement based on what you want the communication piece to achieve. When writing a purpose I like to include the following:

· Action

· Audience

· Achievement

Action refers to how my communication piece is going to do what it does. For example, I might like to convince a person to buy my product. Convince is the action word. Alternatively, I might like to explain how a nifty new piece of computer software works for someone I am coaching. My action is “explain”. Or I might need to instruct my VA to complete a series of tasks in preparation for an upcoming business trip. In that case, my action is “instruct”.

Audience refers to who you are communicating to. This is an important thing that we’ll cover in more detail later. When at the stage of thinking about purpose, all you need to do is think of the audience in terms of name. For example, the audience might be entrepreneurs, Dallas based entrepreneurs, or mompreneurs.

Achievement refers to what I want to achieve through this communication piece. It might be for the audience to use a new product or perform a task.

After identifying this information, I am well on my way to clarifying my purpose and in a good position to write it down. Here are a few examples using the three elements shown above.

· Explain to my downline how to access the back office

· Instruct my virtual assistant to book my travel itinerary for the upcoming conference

· Convince a prospect to buy my new product

Why you need to write down your purpose

Writing down your purpose allows you to see it differently than if it is just in your head. On paper – or on-screen – it will be easier to see how realistic your purpose is. You’ll see whether it is logical or not.

You can then modify or improve it.

You’ll then have something tangible on paper to keep you focused on your communication goal. It will help you make constructive decisions when planning, delivering and reviewing the effectiveness of your communication piece.

That’s why clarifying your purpose is so important. It’s about outcomes.

At this point you might be wondering, how does this apply if I’m just doing a simple, short FaceBook post. Do I really need to write down my purpose?

Writing down and clarifying your purpose will always help you regardless of the size or importance of the communication/interaction. But realistically, this is not always going to be possible. Particularly if you are communicating in an impromptu environment.

However, the most important thing in all of this is to know what your purpose is and be able to articulate this clearly. This involves clarifying your purpose.

So what do you think about before you start communicating in an important situation?

Thinking about your purpose should be the first thing you do. Next come questions of who your audience is, what media is best to get your message across, and what sort of raw content is relevant to helping you craft a powerful message.

This is all part of the Bullseye! Method, a university approach to developing great comms whilst growing as a communicator. You can learn it through online courses or through personalised coaching and training.

Thinking about your audience and customer

about your audience

During my late teens I was involved in radio broadcasting and fortunate to get valuable advice from a veteran broadcaster.

One golden nugget of advice he shared was to picture your listener when talking into the microphone on air.

This simple advice revolutionized the way I went to air.

It can also revolutionize the way you go to “air” in any situation that you need to communicate.

Why you need to picture your audience or customer when preparing comms

We know that speaking to an audience and customer in person makes us communicate differently than when they are not in the same room. Since we get to see the person who is in the same room we get to understand them better from what we see and pick up in the communication. We then communicate our message better.

So how can you communicate well with an audience or customer when they are not in person?

You can create a rich picture of your audience as if they are in the same room. This will put you in a zone where you can improve your messaging dramatically.

In the world of professional communication, audience and purpose are two critical things that you need to consider before any communication. You need to be clear about what you want your communication to achieve. And who you’re communicating with.

I explain how this works in my book Bullseye! – Getting the RIGHT Message to the RIGHT Audience.

Knowing about your audience is also important because it can shape the way you talk about your products, services or ideas.

It will allow you to modify your approach so that you can be sure that your message is relevant.

Developing a picture of your mind or customer

To develop a rich picture of who I am communicating with I like to ask the following questions:

  • What is the audience’s needs, attitudes and wants
  • What is the audience’s experience or educational background?
  • What is the audience’s working culture like?
  • What is the audience’s preferred way to receive a message
  • When is the audience most likely to be receptive to your message?
  • Who is the best sender of your message?
  • The answers to these questions can help you make decisions in terms of:
  • What content to include
  • The level of detail to include in your content
  • Your style and tone
  • How to talk about your topic

How quickly can you describe your key audience? You should be able to recall a clear picture of your audience before developing your comms. It will help you create successful communication.

If you’re looking for ways to understand about your audience and use that to create better messages and content, have a look at the Bullseye! Method. It’s a university validated method for getting the right message to the right audience. And you can use it successfully in leadership, organisational or marketing comms.

How to present your ideas to inspire your audience to act in 4 simple steps

Present Ideas to Inspire your Audience

Do you need to present ideas to inspire your audience to act? 

Read below to discover four powerful ways to achieve this elusive goal. You can expect powerful results when applying these to any kind of comms you wish to create.

There is a lot of good advice on how to inspire an audience. This ranges from telling stories, injecting humour and using visuals to starting and ending strong. 

Yet there are four essential steps that I hardly see mentioned:

  • Getting clear on your outcome and understanding your audience
  • Choosing a persuasive structure for your content
  • Fleshing out your comms in a language appropriate for the situation, your audience and the type of medium you are using
  • Testing your comms before delivering

These fundamental elements, which influence the very “DNA” of your comms, will strengthen the persuasive power of your comms exponentially. Let’s look at how they can help you present your ideas to inspire your audience to act. 

Get clear on your purpose and who your audience is

Clarify your purpose

Professional communication is about getting your audience to think, feel or do something that typically aligns with a business outcome. It’s just one of several business tools that anyone can use to achieve work outcomes.

It’s therefore critical to be clear on your purpose before you start crafting your speech, email, small meeting presentation or online video. No point in inspiring people to take an action not relevant to your outcome!

A piece of comms is only as successful as it is in achieving its outcome. Regardless of how good it looks, how well it reads or the professional quality of its production skills.

Therefore, clarify your purpose before you start your comms. This can take time, so be prepared to think hard. For this blog, we’re talking about how to present ideas to inspire your audience to act. So we know that we’re focusing on the audience doing something – not thinking or feeling something. Make sure the action you want aligns with your broader business outcome. You’ll immediately lift the strategic nature of your message.

Understand your audience

A part of clarifying your purpose should involve identifying who your audience is. You also need to understand your audience detail if you want to make your message or content more meaningful.

There are lots of ways to do this. A simple start is to ask them what their needs, attitudes and wants are. Also, consider what they know about the topic and what their preferred media is.

If you’re keen to present your ideas to inspire your audience to act, understanding their needs is critical. Knowing your audience’s needs is like a gold nugget when it comes to inspiring. People respond much more strongly to something if it meets their needs. Crafting a message or piece of comms around your audience’s needs is the most fundamental step in making your content compelling.

Sure, there are structures, words, and graphic styles that will help make your comms compelling. But they are not effective if promoting something you clearly don’t need or are interested in.   

The other thing to consider is what media your audience is most likely to receive your message from. You might like to give a fancy speech on a podium that looks good, but if none of your audience has the time or is bothered to turn up, it will fall on empty ears. But if you know they’ll watch a short 3-minute youtube video, you can present a less than fancy presentation and know they’ll watch.

So make sure you are clear on your purpose of what you want your audience to do consuming your comms. Be sure to deliver it on the best medium for the audience. This is the first step if you wish to present your ideas to inspire your audience to act.

Choose the best structure for your content

A structural approach can help you articulate your ideas

“Structure” might not be the first thing that comes to mind when exploring how to present your ideas to inspire your audience to act. 

Having the best structure in your speech, email, document, video or PowerPoint slide is very important to get your message across. It helps you organise your subject matter so that it’s meaningful to your audience. And it helps articulate complex ideas in ways that make them simple.

You can re-organise the ideas to present to your audience from an angle that makes the best sense to them. You can also fit them into a structure that aligns with your audience’s schema. 

Further, you can use elements of structure (such as time, place or function) to piece together the elements of your idea for better clarity. For example, if describing how something works, you can organise the elements by occurrence in the sequence. Or if highlighting ideas, you can order critical points in order of priority.

But more than using structure to articulate your idea, you can use it to ensure your message is persuasive. 

You can use structures to make your comms more persuasive

Did you know that you can organise your subject matter in a particular order to be more persuasive? Marketers do this all the time and you can in business as well.

Have you ever wondered why a sales letter promoting a new product is so convincing? They will follow a “formula” that prepares you to take action. This formula is based on a structure working hand in hand with language to get you reading first, and then put you in the right context where it’s almost impossible to say no to an offer. 

For further research, look at David Frey’s 12 step sales letter formula and examine where he places different content in the overall flow. And ask yourself why it doesn’t have a “call to action” until the end. 

This 12 step formula is what we call in the communication game a superstructure. This is a generic structure that you can use on pretty much any kind of topic to achieve a purpose. In this case, the purpose is to get by people to buy a product. As another exercise, see if you can look at five different sales letters and see how they follow the same superstructure. It will surprise you what you find.

Look to persuasive structures from the marketing world and learn how to adapt them to your business comms

Superstructures exist for any kind of communication. That’s why you’ll find a lot of user guides unique to their product following the same kind of flow as other user guides. Or training guides. Or bids and proposals and business cases. 

There are superstructures for explaining things, informing people, training people… and convincing people. And if you want to present ideas to inspire your audience to act, persuasive superstructures are a great resource to start. 

At this point, you may be getting uncomfortable with the idea of using marketing ideas in standard organisational comms like a lot of senior leaders I have spoken to. This is often because they immediately think of the hype surrounding marketing material that is not generally appropriate in a typical work environment. However, the “hype” you’ll see in  marketing comms typically comes from the language with superlatives. A superstructure suggests the type of content in the best order – not how you write about it. Having a persuasive structure in the way your order your subject matter but with toned-down language is infinitely more effective than no persuasive structure.

One extremely simple – but very effective – superstructure is the PAS method. PAS represents three types of content to present in sequence: Explain or introduce the Problem, Agitate the problem, Provide a Solution to the problem. This is a good way to draw in the audience by talking about their problem. Then make it very real by agitating the problem with a cutting example. Then provide relief on how to overcome the problem with your solution. 

Although this is a superstructure used by marketers, you can adapt it to business comms. (You may need to tone it down by language.) 

For example:

[P] The market is forcing margins for consulting to get smaller and smaller. [A] This affects our business because we rely on margins – this is where we get most of our money to pay you bonuses. [S] To prevent small margins affecting our business, we each need to work smarter and look for ways to automate.

To whet your appetite for persuasive superstructures, look to the world of copywriting and the many structures (which they call formulas) for presenting compelling information.

And by the way… next time someone says “tell a story” to make your comms more effective, how are you going to do it? Did you know that the classic story is a superstructure? When followed correctly it will captivate, compel and inspire.  

Once you’ve got a structure, it’s time to start fleshing it out into a solid piece of comms. That’s when using the right language comes in.

Adopt language that is appropriate to your audience and medium

With the best superstructure, you can start collecting subject matter and organising it into a meaningful piece of content for your audience. You may even need to drill down the existing structure further with a structure to outline the logical flow of ideas between paragraphs.

However, a lot of this process involves working with language to express your ideas. This is where it’s important to consider what kind of language you use. Here are some important tips:

  • Adopt a language that is appropriate to your audience. If it’s a formal occasion, use a “formal” style. If it’s a casual occasion, use a “casual” style. This may seem obvious, but when you’re used to delivering information formally, it’s hard to switch and deliver it casually. Being able to switch styles comfortably is a skill that requires mastering the elements of styles.
  • Use a language that works with your chosen media. You wouldn’t send a 1000 word tweet through Twitter just as much as you shouldn’t submit a three-sentence user guide. There are certain conventions around how you communicate across different media in the interests of clarity. Make sure you follow these.
  • Although I mentioned understanding your audience’s “needs” and giving it to them as a big step in making things compelling, you can enhance this by your use of language that supports that need. This is where appropriately using words to excite can come in handy.  

There is a lot that can be covered on this, which I explain in my book Bullseye! Getting the RIGHT Message to the RIGHT Audience. But the main takeaway here is to deliver your message in the language of your audience using the language of your chosen medium. This will help you present your ideas to inspire your audience to act.

Test your comms

Once you’ve crafted a piece of comms that presents your ideas to inspire your audience to act, you need to test it. Get feedback from someone who represents your audience to see if it is compelling. 

Two things on this. Be sure to ask someone who can represent your whole audience. You don’t need feedback from a small segment of your audience that is not representative of the general audience. Otherwise, you may get advice that could limit your reach.

Once you have chosen the right person, listen to the feedback. Be humble enough to accept that you don’t know everything. Evaluate the feedback and take it on board as is appropriate. This will give you confidence that your comms will present your ideas to inspire your audience to act. Your interest here should be in the most effective way of achieving your purpose. 


There are many ways to present your ideas to inspire your audience to act the way you need them. All of these are good – from telling stories, injecting humour, having strong openings and closes…

However, if you want to present ideas to inspire your audience and get them to take a specific action, make sure that you:

  • Clarify your purpose and understand your audience first, so you can…
  • Adopt an appropriate superstructure that supports your purpose, in this case, take action, so you can…
  • Flesh out the content using language that is appropriate to your audience, context and medium, before…
  • Testing your comms so you can be sure it will achieve your purpose

You’ll be setting up comms piece for success at its very DNA. You can learn more about this as part of the Bullseye! Method, which you can learn through my bookonline courses or in-person coaching.

5 top reasons why your audience ignoring your emails

reasons why your audience is ignoring your emails

Have you been looking for reasons why your audience ignoring your emails?

How often have you heard a workplace manager complaining “they should know, we sent an email about that last week!”?

Many managers assume that their staff get messages simply because they are sent out in an email. They don’t just assume that staff open all emails in their inbox but they actually read them too.

Yet this is a dangerous problem if you’re serious about getting your message to your audience by email.

According to Lifewire, the average worker receives about 121 emails a day. Only 16% of emails received are opened on desktop computers, 55.6% on a mobile and 28% by webmail.

The average worker will miss – or actively chose to ignore – any number of emails on any day.

How can you stop your target audience from ignoring your emails and increase the chances of your message getting through?

Here are five common reasons I’ve found why your target audience is possibly ignoring your emails:

  • Email is not the best medium to convey your message or information
  • You’re not the best sender for the message
  • Your subject line isn’t relevant or compelling
  • You haven’t framed the message properly
  • You have issues in the body of your email

Email is not the best medium for your message

The first of the five reasons why your target audience is possibly ignoring your emails comes down to your choice of medium.  

Some messages just don’t work well in email. Particularly those where you want to include a lot of information.

Some people like to include a whole document of information in the body of an email. In the same way of thinking “I’ve sent an email so I’ve communicated the message”, they assume everyone has the time and patience to scroll through 20 paragraphs in an email. Yet that’s not how the average person reads emails.

If you’ve got loads of information to share, consider publishing it as a document on your company Sharepoint. Then use email to send a brief summary and link to that document. You would do well to include context and a reason for sending the information along with a brief description. And since it is a summary, keep it to one or two paragraphs. All the time remembering that your purpose will be getting them to click the link.

Having said that, I am conscious for some that it’s hard to get past the idea of sending a short email. So if you really need to include more than four paragraphs in an email, include signposts such as forecasting statements and subheadings. This will make it easier for the reader to navigate quickly through your email.

Another reason why an email might not be the best medium is the nature of the message. If it’s of a personal nature, talking to someone in person or on the phone may be much more effective.  

A final reason to consider is that your audience just doesn’t use email. Even if they have a company inbox where you can send them emails, there’s no point emailing them if they won’t open up the email. One company I consulted for many years decided not to email morning briefs to their sales team. They knew their team – if doing their job – would be on the road and not have time to read emails. So they instead prepared a podcast that sales agents could listen to whilst in transit. The message got through perfectly.  

It’s best to establish that email is the best or most appropriate medium to use for your message before writing an email. And be ready to choose another medium if that will achieve your purpose more effectively. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to put time into writing a great email only to find out that it’s not the right medium. 

You are the wrong sender for the message

The second of five reasons why your audience is possibly ignoring your emails might come across as offensive. That’s because it comes down to you.

People often choose to read or listen to a message based on who is delivering it.

Consider research from Prosci’s Best practices in Change Management that show employees have preferences about who they want to hear from during a workplace change activity. For change information that impacts an overall organisation, they like to hear it from their senior leadership. For change information that affects their daily activities, they are more likely to listen and respond positively if delivered by their immediate manager.

This concept is not limited to the world of organisational change. It works for all sorts of messaging you may want to send to the organisation. There are all sorts of reasons for this, such as the sender’s appointed authority, earned authority, trust, rapport, and so on.

When the “sender” is the first thing you see against an email in most email browsers, that person’s name or position can impact whether it gets opened. Back in the “wild west” days of internet marketing before regulated privacy laws, astute email marketers would change their sender name as soon as their subscribers stopped opening their emails. This almost always increased the open rate. That’s because the readers decided whether to open an email on account of who was sending them. 

Could being the wrong sender for the message be one of the reasons why your audience is ignoring your email?

If you’re serious about getting your message out for people to consume, always choose the best messenger. If you’re not the best messenger for this message – find someone that is. Then get them to send the email to increase your open rate and readability.

Your subject line isn’t relevant or compelling

If the sender is the first thing a reader sees in the email browser, the subject header is the second thing. This is very important.

Looking back to the world of email marketing, the purpose of a subject header is to get people to open the email. It’s worth adopting this principle in a manner appropriate to your work environment when sending work emails. You’ll increase your open rates.

It’s also helpful to ensure your headline is relevant to your target audience and easy to find as a reference for later. Particularly for emails with information the receiver will use as a reference for later. For example login URLs or Sharepoint links for important documents.

Here are some thoughts for creating effective subject lines:

  • Give your reader a reason for opening the email, such as “SharePoint access for [Name of Document]
  • Describe the gist of the email, e.g. “What you need to know before [New App] goes live on Monday”
  • Apply a little bit of internet marketing hype if you can get away with it, for example, “Five reasons to complete your Personal Development Plan In Time”
  • Avoid generic subject lines that either bore people or don’t frame the email content, e.g. “Login Details” is nowhere nearly as helpful as “SharePoint Login Details for new contractors” or “Key Announcement” is so vanilla when it could summarise the key announcement “[Company Names]’s response to COVID cluster”

Famous copywriter Joe Sugarman wrote that the purpose of the title in a piece of marketing copy is to get people to read the first sentence. And the purpose of the first sentence is to get them to read the second sentence. And the second sentence to get them to read the thirds sentence… you get the drift.

There’s nothing wrong with applying a marketing principle like this to organisational emails. For operational comms, the main purpose of an email’s subject head should be to get your audience to open the email and read the first paragraph. Also, to make it easy for them to find the email later for later reference.

Framed the message with a “why” or “so what”

In a busy world where time is money, people need a good reason to consume your content. They also want to understand the information in the right context. They don’t want to be confused or haveing to join the missing dots together.

That’s why how you “frame” – or don’t frame – your message is the fourth of five reasons why your audience is ignoring your emails.

When constructing an email, set the context first. For example, rather than just starting out with a reference to new working-from-home policies, set the context (or reason) for it. Such as “with a new state COVID-19 lockdown announced by the government today, we’ll need to transition to work-from-home operations”. The key message might be a transition to work-from-home operations, but explaining it in its context frames it nicely.

Another consideration for framing your message is to position it from your audience’s What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) perspective. Instead of writing “we need volunteers to set up Friday Drinks”, You can frame it with the WIFFM “So we can keep Friday drinks continuing, we need volunteers from your team to set it up. Can you help?” Including the information in a “so what” statement that speaks directly to their needs will tune their ears or focus their eyes to read further.

Setting context or including a WIIFM doesn’t mean adding lots of words to the body of your email. You can set the context in half a sentence. Or you can do it in a paragraph if you want to.

You have issues in the body of your email

Let’s assume that you’re the right sender, you’ve got the right kind of message for the email medium and your audience has actually opened your email because it has an amazing subject line. This should guarantee your message getting through, right?


There are still several roadblocks that can sit in the body of your email:

  • Poor structure
  • Too much content
  • Poor language

Poor structure as one of the reasons why your audience is ignoring your emails

Even though your email may only be one or two paragraphs, the structure is still important. That’s because a good structure helps articulate an idea. A good structure organises your ideas logically so that it makes sense to your audience. It prevents gaps of logic and increasing the cognitive load.

Further, you can use a “superstructure” that is geared to support the outcome of your email. (A superstructure is like a template for organising the type of information to include in a particular way). For example, if you need to persuade workers to adopt a new process, you can take advantage of a persuasive superstructure.

When you don’t bother about structuring your message in an email, you end up with a poor structure. And this can help your reader tune out. Is this one of the reasons why your audience is ignoring your emails?

Too much content as one of the reasons why your audience is ignoring your emails

Although we’ve covered it earlier, it’s worth mentioning again. Emails are not a good medium for sharing loads and load of information. First, it’s hard to consume so much information through the layout of an email browser. Secondly, people reading emails at work are limited in time and just want to get the point quickly. Thirdly, nobody likes scrolling and typically won’t bother scrolling.

Another consideration is that people also read emails on their smartphone. The real estate of a smartphone screen does not make it easy to have lots of detailed information.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why your audience is ignoring your emails. If so, re-think how you communicate your information. Consider drafting your detailed information in a document that your audience can read later, and using an email to provide short a short summary of the information in a way that entices them to read the information in a suitable format.

Poor language as one of the reasons why your audience is ignoring your emails

We all learnt how to write in High School English, but we were mostly writing essays to show off our command of advanced English. Back in the day, long sentences and fancy words ruled the day.

But in today’s business world people aren’t interesting in the eloquence of your writing. They just want to get the message. So you need to write in a way that puts the focus on the message and not the style.

The best way to do this is write your emails in a plain English style. And, where possible, write in a personal manner.

Poor language can confuse people or bore them. Either way, it stops them from reading your message.

If this is one of the reasons why your audience is ignoring your emails, then work on your plain English writing skills. Take time to learn the elements of plain English and cross check your writing style. I’ve found a lot of people who attend my writing workshops think they write in plain English but don’t. Don’t assume you do either.

Reasons why your audience is ignoring your emails

If you are finding your audience is regularly ignoring your emails, perhaps some of these reasons we’ve covered could tell you why.

Remember for email success to ensure that you:

  • Are confident email is the best medium for achieving your communication outcome
  • Are the best sender for the message, otherwise choose someone more effective
  • Include a subject line that is compelling and relevant to your audience
  • Frame your message with a context and include the WIIFM
  • Use a good structure, avoid including too much information, and write in a plain language

The reasons why your audience is ignoring your emails isn’t rocket science. You can address any of these in your writing easily to increase the effectiveness. We help business professionals do this as part of the Bullseye! Method, a comprehensive approach to becoming a great communicator. It takes the mystery out of what makes successful communication and offers simple steps to creating effective comms. It doesn’t just help in creating effective emails, but many different types of comms as part of leadership, organisational and marketing comms.

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

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

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
Man pointing at screen of desktop and explaining contents