Know your readers

Since the last posting I’ve been wrestling with what to write. Should I do a ‘how to communicate 101’, should I plug my training services (no!), should I comment on blogging versus journalism (I don’t think so – a) too introspective, b) loads of people are doing it), …

Actually, on second thoughts, that’s exactly what this post will be about.

When I got involved in Personal Computer World (in 1979, for goodness’ sake) the first thing I did was determine the audience mix that I wanted. It was a simple enough idea but, at the time, somewhat ambitious. I think it was business, enthusiasts and education. The audience I inherited was mainly in the middle group.

All I had to do was ensure that the magazine had the right mix of articles and it would act as a magnet to the readers I wanted.

Nowadays, I tend to write for established titles whose audiences are clearly defined. It means that columns and articles can be written with a reader in mind.

But, when it comes to a blog, who to write for? What level to focus what I write? It seems that I’ve shot back 25 plus years, and the answer is "whoever I want to". Gulp.

Now I have to invent an imaginary readership and focus to them.

Without a focus, there’s no reason to keep coming back. So, I’m working on the basis that you’re intelligent and you need to deliver your messages either directly to your audience or indirectly, through an intermediary such as the press.

This business of ‘knowing your audience’ is a crucial first step for you. If you can’t visualise the kind of person you’re addressing, whether doing a speech at a conference or talking to a journalist (and, no, the journalist is not your audience, their readers are) then you will fail to connect.

So many people are internally-focused (look at this whizzy product, it does this and this and this) and forget to find out who their audience will be.

When it comes to the press, it doesn’t hurt to ask "who do you see as your typical reader?" Don’t be intimidated by the brand. The Financial Times, for example, has many sections which are read by different sorts of people. If you just think "FT" then you’re in danger of mis-focusing. Are they investors, captains of industry, people interested in ICT? The journalist will be happy to tell you. If they’re not, then they’re playing unhealthy games with you – something I will probably talk about later.

More anon.

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