How Well Do You Know Your Audience?

Audience analysis is the cornerstone of any professional communication. You could be creating a sales brochure, a one-page flyer, a technical report, or a user guide. The audience of the communication dictates almost all parts of the communication.

How Well Do You Know Your Audience? image audience 1024x776How well do you know your audience?

A copywriter creates advertisements with a certain audience in mind. The content and the visuals of these advertisements are often oriented toward the age group of the target customer, their socio-economic background, and their aspirations among other things.

Similarly, the language and style of writing employed by an academician in textbooks differs greatly from the style and vocabulary used in a peer reviewed journal. Here, in the first instance, the audience of a textbook is often students who are entering the field and not completely conversant with all the terms. The author here will take an additional effort to define all the terms and often explain concepts using metaphors that the student can understand and apply to the topic of discussion. Whereas, the content of an academic journal is more to the point with little background information as the author is talking mostly to an audience that is similar to her.

The group’s ability to comprehend

If you wish to communicate with your audience, you want to include information they need and write it in their words. Adding demographic information to the analysis will affect the writing style as well as establish a baseline for the information you want to include in the document.

For example, when writing for an audience that is not tech savvy or internet savvy, use of acronyms like WYSIWYG will be misplaced and the readers will have to go hunt for the meaning of the acronym.

Their Objective

Readers often access a document with specific intent and to satisfy a information need. Is it a reference document that readers use only to look-up specific information? Or, is it a sales brochure where the reader is receiving information as well as evaluating your services and quality.

The reference guide users will want to get to the information quickly and complete the task that is holding up their work. On the other hand, while reading a brochure, the readers will be evaluating the product and willing to spend time on reading about the product features.

How much do they know?

What does the audience need to know? Another dimension that you need to evaluate in depth is what does the audience already know about the subject? It does not really matter if it is a complex environmental report or a legal procedure. Do your readers know all the terms? Are they from the same domain or is it for a general populace?

For example, a Global Warming report for physicists will assume a lot of technical knowledge. However, a report covering the same subject for the general population will need a lot more basic information.

Where are they?

The physical location of the reader puts the environment of the use in context. Will your document be referred at home, in a dark hallway, or a brightly lit airport lounge? These environmental conditions will dictate your choice of typography, design, and use of visuals.

For example, you might get away with text of similar shade as the background in a brightly lit hall, but it would definitely pose problems in a hallway with dim lighting.

Are they in a hurry?

Will the document be used in the office while completing a task? Or, is it an emergency instruction sheet that will be referred in a high-pressure situation? The stress in this part of the analysis is not on the physical environment but on the context of use.

For example, a user guide for operating a fire extinguisher is much more comprehensive than the emergency sheet pasted next to a hanging fire extinguisher. It is assumed that this specific information sheet will be accessed in a time of emergency and therefore the information is much more succinct, almost abrupt, and with ample visuals to aid people who may not understand the language used in the information sheet.


In summary, any audience analysis should address following attributes of the audience:
· Reading level and vocabulary
· Reading purpose
· Existing knowledge of the subject
· Physical environment
· Context of use

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