Know your audience

This entry was posted by on Wednesday, 19 March, 2014 at

unlovable_dalepartridgeIt seems like such simple and straightforward advice, doesn’t it? Knowing who you are talking to isn’t much of a stretch, most of us think we know exactly who we are talking to via social media, but do we really?

Your audience may or may not be who you think they are.  For some blogs, the distinction of a particular audience may be clearly defined, for others an audience may bleed over into many differing perspectives and entry points for your content. The sooner, and more clearly you can identify the audience for your blog, the better your posts may become.

By way of example, I want to talk about a particular post which a friend of mine shared a day or so back. This post has some good advice, but the author missed the audience, and by doing so has likely alienated a larger swath of people:

“5 steps for loving the unlovable”

Dale’s post starts out simply enough: the intent is to help us all be better people by loving those who least deserve it. Good, solid advice to help us all improve our culture and become a more understanding and cohesive society. But, I’m having some difficulty in reconciling his second point with the title of the piece. In it Dale states:

  “Don’t Reinforce Their Brokenness – As a broken person myself, it’s rare that I don’t recognize my own brokenness. Talk about their strengths. Broken people need less awareness, and more healing.”

Yet, the title of the article “5 steps for loving the unlovable” clearly reinforces the idea that broken people are concretely unlovable. Dale’s voice here seems to be talking directly to people who don’t consider themselves as ‘broken’, and by virtue of this contradiction between advice and title, seems to assume that broken people won’t be reading his post. In fact, his voice generates an “us” and “them” focus that undermines his larger point.

But how would knowing his audience have improved his post? Let’s start with the assumption that those reading Dale’s post are both types of people as defined in his post: those who are ‘broken”, and everyone else. Not a huge stretch here as most people can identify as broken at one point in their lives, if not presently so. With this single, simple understanding that his audience comprises both types, I would expect a more focused choice of words to show compassion and love, rather than the subtle tone of superiority and conflicting messages present in the article as written.

A change in voice is a simple way to adjust for the audience. Given his recognition of being broken himself, rather than using “them” and “their”, a shift to “us” and “we” immediately changes the tone of the article to be more welcoming and inclusive as well as generating a feeling of deeper compassion and connectedness. With that single change, Dale could both drive home the overarching point of his article, while also combating the polarizing effects of the us versus them mindset which permeates our internet culture today. The recognition of an audience that is also broken would have guided Dale’s word choice to more effectively deliver his message.

Knowing your audience doesn’t mean you have to write directly to every different perspective. Rather, knowing your audience means understanding and acknowledging the differing perspectives and allowing those perspectives to help guide you as you create; leading you to the right word choices will do wonders to improve your following and reduce the potential for alienating a previously unknown audience segment.

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