When approaching any type of writing, we follow Hake’s six key rules to clearer, more effective and more engaging copy. We will spend the next few blogs exploring these rules, starting with the most important rule of them all:
Rule Number One: Know Your Audience
Love thyself and know your audience. Before putting pen to paper, brain in first gear or even planning to think about thinking about what to write, you must first understand your audience. Your audience are the most important people (sorry mum) when it comes to writing: If your audience aren’t satisfied then your writing isn’t achieving its primary objective (even if your mum does love it).
But how do you get to know your audience without staking out their house and stalking them on Facebook? Easy:
a) Who are they?
Sounds simple but actually understanding who your audience are, is vital. Writing for a target audience of teenage girls will be a lot different to writing for a target audience of muscle-building men. Conduct stakeholder (audience) analysis by:
- Brainstorming those affected by, interested in or having influence over your work
- Prioritising those identified in relation to their interest in and their power over the topic
b) What do they already know?
Covering information that your audience already know could be a waste of time; whilst assuming your audience have an understanding that they don’t could switch them off. Be acutely aware of your own level of understanding and then question, ‘but will my audience understand this?’
c) What do they need to know?
Be clear on what information your writing needs to convey. A lawyer will require much different information from a legal update, from what a legally-inexperienced client will need to know.
d) What do they want to know?
If your audience aren’t going to be interested in the background of your latest technical development, then don’t include it. Question: are your audience a sucker for the details or do that just want the cold, hard facts?
e) How do they want to know?
Consider the channels that your audience want communication on and the channel best suited for the content at hand. You might love a tweet about your favourite store’s latest sale but you might not appreciate changes to your account being communicated that way. Equally, if your target audience aren’t on Twitter, your information isn’t going to do much work there.
f) How will they feel?
Finally, it is important to consider how your audience feel about the topic and the impact that your communication is going to have. Communications to your employees about contractual changes might invoke fear, unrest and upset – contrast that with an email to your employees about free ice cream and you will have a completely different purpose, tone and focus.
Understanding your audience by considering these six questions, will enable you to design and create cleaner, clearer and more effective writing.