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Audience-centered communication focuses on giving readers and listeners information they want rather than just the message you want delivered. Using techniques that focus on providing your audience with solutions they're seeking, you can effectively do both.
Know the Audience
Savvy editors and programmers understand that their ultimate goal is not just to create technically sound messages, but also to motivate audiences to act. A good message is necessary to do this, but creating a good message requires knowing your exact audience. Before you put your first word on paper, learn as much as you can about your audience. Find information about them such as age, sex, income and education level, marital or parental status, geographic location and career status.
Understand What They Want
Once you have a demographic profile of your audience, determine what they want from you. Look for a problem, need or opportunity they have. For example, if you are writing an article for a cooking magazine, find out if the audience is interested in healthy eating, budget cooking, learning about new cuisines or making convenient meals. This will prevent you from writing articles you find interesting, but which the magazine’s readership might not.
Set Up the Scenario
Before you launch into your article, speech or marketing material layout, set up a scenario that intrigues your audience by demonstrating that they have a need, problem or opportunity you can help them with. For example, if you’re selling lawn-care products, you might put a photo in your ad, brochure or website page that shows brown grass. Your headline might include text about weeds or fungus. Once you set up the problem, give a generic solution, such as the need for a weed-and-feed product or antifungal treatment. This gives the audience confidence that you are providing expert guidance, rather than just pushing your product or service.
Deliver the Benefit
Now that you’ve sold your audience on the fact that they have a problem, need or opportunity and you have given them the generic solution, show how your product or service is their best option for achieving that solution. This is the time to talk about yourself and your features. Think about auto manufacturers that lead their ads with promises of general benefits consumers want, such as safety, status, reliability, better gas mileage or green benefits. Car and truck makers create their brands around delivering a specific, but general, consumer benefit, and then showing how they provide that benefit better than anyone else.
When possible, use images or stories of people who look and act like your target audience. This helps create empathy, showing that you cater to the needs of people just like the reader, viewer or listener. This technique can be as simple as using a photo of a person, couple or family that fits the demographic profile of your audience. It can be a bit more involved, such as setting up a scenario using a person like your target customer, “Mary’s children were getting too many cavities …”
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.
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