The first step in conveying an effective message is knowing who you are talking to. The key is adapting your content to align with the anticipated values and concerns of those who will be receiving your message. Whether you have a generalized group of readers or you are writing to a closed group of people, there are five questions you should ask yourself before you begin:
Where do they live? Are you writing content for a localized area or will it be available to people all over? Taking the geographical location of your readers into consideration when writing is one way to pinpoint your audience’s values. Researching local customs and cultural traditions can also help you establish context in their current events.
What is the context? Researching events that have been in the news in that area will give you a sense of context. Remaining sensitive and mindful of current events will help you adjust your content in terms of what is appropriate to discuss and what might be portrayed as offensive.
How big is the audience? While this may seem insignificant, this small detail can help determine what kind of “voice” you use in your writing. For example, if you were to write a newsletter for your colleagues, you could assume that your readers are college educated and have at least a basic knowledge of the company. However, if your audience is a large and more generalized group of people, you will need to tailor your message so it is palatable to more than one demographic.
What demographic would you like to reach? It is no secret that you would not speak to a high school student the same way you would a business woman. Knowing or anticipating the demographic of your readers can help you determine the level of vocabulary to use, the formality of your language, the level of detail, and the types of visual aids, or lack thereof, to use. For example, if your goal is to persuade readers, statistics and facts might work for scholars and professionals but will not be as effective in a younger, less educated demographic.
What do they value? Finally, you must consider what your intended audience values and what they might be looking to gain from reading your content. If you can anticipate what is important to your audience, you can ultimately create something that will resonate with them.