Recognizing Your Diverse Audiences

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Do you think of everyone in your audiences as being the same, or do you think of them as members of diverse groups? I once had a confusing semester in business school (actually most of them were confusing to me, but this one more so than the others) when I took courses in accounting and finance at the same time. Before starting, I thought of them as being much the same: number- driven exercises.

They weren’t the same, of course. In fact, they were very different, and most tellingly when it came to final results. In accounting, every penny must be traced and assigned. In finance, on the other hand, you often round off numbers to the nearest million dollars. It’s a distinction that had to be kept in mind, especially during exams.

From a communication perspective, this distinction should remind us to segment our audiences when preparing information for them. Suppose you’re making a speech to, or writing an article for, a sales and marketing audience. Would you have the same message for both the marketing people and sales people? Probably not. Marketing refers to the process of analyzing markets and products, to create strategies for developing, distributing, and selling products or services. Sales, on the other hand, involves matching individual customer needs with products or services, and then facilitating customer purchases.

Marketers think of customers in the aggregate, as market segments or niches. Sales people think of customers as individuals. Marketers generalize, sales people particularize. Marketers analyze, sales people socialize.

Again, to an outsider the differences may seem insignificant. However, they may be a big deal to the people with whom you’re communicating. And, your message won’t get through to an important segments of the audience if each segment isn’t served.

So, how do we pick up on those distinctions? By profiling our audience, which means segmenting it according to certain criteria.

Two useful tools for segmenting are demographic and psychographic analysis. Demographics refers to vital statistics like, age, income, location, and similar data. Psychographics refers most often to lifestyles and values. As you can imagine, demographics involves mostly objective data, psychographics provides more subjective data.

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Of course, you can segment in many other ways. For a newspaper, I might segment readers into two groups: one group which reads the whole paper, and a second group which does just a quick scan. Yes, you will need to know something about your audience before you can segment it. And that’s good. Whether you segment it or not, knowledge of the people you’re addressing always helps. In addition, undertaking any kind of segmentation should make you more sensitive to subtle distinctions among groups in your audience. If the message is important, profile your audience before communicating, to ensure you serve the diverse groups within it.

Download three free chapters from Robert Abbott’s book, A Manager’s Guide to Newsletters: Communicating for Results; it\s the first step toward creating a powerful and sustainable newsletter: http://www.managersguide.com/free-sample.html (and it will help you develop a strong newsletter name, too!)

Recognizing Your Diverse Audiences
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