As we begin the process of analyzing the message assignment archery might be a good metaphor to use. If the arrow is your message, the audience is the target you are shooting for. Without the audience “target” your soaring arrow will just fly through the air and land uselessly. Scoping out the target helps you adjust the way you deploy the arrow to most effectively hit the bullseye.
Whether you are working in a newsroom or in an advertising or public relations context, your ultimate goal as a communicator is to create messages / stories / advertisements / public relations materials that effectively engage the audience with whom you most want to connect. It is your ability to connect the message content with the valued audience that will determine how successful your communications effort has been.
Advertisers want to expand their products’ market reach. The advertising communicator’s job, then, is to determine the story to tell about the product that will most effectively appeal to the audience that has been targeted for that expanded reach. They need to understand who the current audience is for the product.
Questions advertisers will ask about audience include:
- Who is the product not currently effectively marketed to?
- What do the people who use the product like, or dislike about the product?
- Who are the people who use a competitor’s product and what do the competitors in the marketplace offer?
- What would an ideal customer for the product look like?
- Who buys similar products and who might find this product attractive?
Public relations professionals want to ensure positive opinions about their organization. The public relations professional’s task, then, is to create messages that will influence the important stakeholders.
Questions public relations professionals will ask about audience include:
- Who are the people or groups we need to influence?
- What concerns might different stakeholders have?
- What impact would negative opinion by certain stakeholders have on the company?
Journalists’ communications work is intended to inform, entertain, persuade, mobilize and/or engage the readers or viewers of the publications for which they work.
Questions journalists will about about audience include:
- Who is reading/listening/viewing the news message?
- What is it that that audience already knows?
- What does the audience need to know?
As these examples indicate, each type of communicator has different types of people that they need to keep in mind and they need to understand different things about that audience they will be targeting. Before we discuss how to analyze these audience needs, we should point out two other audiences that communicators must consider as they develop their message.