An urban legend holds that a famous soft-drink company opened up business in the Middle East, and, not wanting to waste time with translators , made a completely pictographic advertisement. The first panel featured someone suffering from extreme thirst, the second showed that person drinking their soda, and the third showed the person relieved and refreshed. But they failed to take into account that Arabic readers read from right to left.
While the story is almost certainly false (and you can find versions with drug companies instead of soft-drink companies, and placed in Israel instead of the Middle East), take a moment to imagine how they could have avoided this debacle had they known that one detail about their audience. If they'd understood their audience completely, they could have unlocked the power of writing to a targeted audience.
To tailor your writing to your audience for maximum effect, consider
- Who are they? What are their roles in the organization? Are they busy? What kind of information are they seeking?
- Why are they reading your work? To learn a skill, find a resource, or solve a problem?
- What cultural conventions, including workplace, do you need to be aware of? What about conventions inside an industry or generation?
- How is your audience likely to react to your work? Will they be cynical? Excited? Fascinated?
- What are the most effective ways to convince your readers? Do you want to appeal to logic or emotion?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you tailor your topic. Adjust the following aspects until they form an effective communication template:
- How much information to share, and whether to share it in the form of facts, diagrams, anecdotes, or other forms
- The level of detail and explanation
- Where emphasis falls, particularly among persuasive elements
- How much research is required before you begin to write
- How to organize your writing and the order in which you present ideas
- What word choices and tone markers to use
To learn more about writing to a targeted audience, and about writing in general, contact Hurley Write, Inc.