In Stiglet’s previous post about knowing your audience, the point was raised that you have to know who you want to send your message to for it to be effective. But this has raised the question: how do you pinpoint who they are exactly? And once you’ve identified the audience, what’s the best way of engaging them?
It’s not as easy as it sounds. The first point of engagement is knowing your audience: who they are, what their goals are, and how long you expect them to engage with your materials. If you’re working on an instruction document set, is your audience knowledgeable about the product already, or are they new users? Will they read it from start to finish, or will they dip in and out, finding what they need when they need it? Do they speak the same version of the language that you’re used to, or are you going to have to swap between, say Franco-Provençal and Occitan French? Or even American and New Zealand English? Is the product that you’re working on brand new, or is it a variant of an existing product?
A useful tool is a revised version of marketing strategy called the “4 Ps“. These used to refer to “Product, Price, Promotion, and Distribution (Place).” However the revised (and more useful to us) version has been put forth in an article by Marti Beller and includes:
- Perspective: “Use your data to identify your target audience.” This is often a challenge for technical communicators – especially in New Zealand, we may be isolated from our target audiences. Talk to your marketing team and, where possible, sit in on training sessions to observe. Delving into your developers’ functional specifications and use case scenarios is also useful. Forbes magazine has a brilliant list of how to identify your target audience that is easy to apply to technical audiences.
- Purpose: Know your brand or the product you’re documenting. Again, this sounds simple, but you might be surprised how few people in an organisation have a clear big-picture view of their product’s purpose.
- Path: Know your strategic direction, or for us, your tone and your delivery format. Are you using text or infographics? Or a video feed?
- Proliferation: Test for usability and learn from the results. Whenever possible, get your materials reviewed by your audience – again, your trainers can also provide good feedback.
Do any of these steps seem familiar? How do you identify your audiences? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.