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Right To Your Audience
Claudia Coplon

If you are one of the many individuals who experience writer’s block when faced with a blank page, we’re about to complicate the issue.  Once you do get started, once you find the gift of clear thinking and prose fairly pours on to the page, there’s still another hurdle ahead.  You must make sure that you are writing right for the audience who will be reading your message.

All too often, otherwise erudite people will take the same phrasing, tone and style they would use in a letter to membership and copy it directly into a memo for staff, a report to the board, an educational note to an advocate or even an entry on a web site.  And yet, we don’t talk to each of these audiences using the same voice, tone and words.  We change according to the audience’s motivation for involvement.  Therefore, the same positioning – and repositioning must be applied to the written word.

When writing, there are a few givens, no matter who your audience is:

  1. You are always in sell mode.  Whoever the audience, you are selling a message even if it is the subtle “I am/we are on top of things.”
  2. Your message should be succinct and educational.  Lay out your key thought/goal at the outset.  First, verticalize the components of that thought in bullet points.  Then expand them as appropriate for the mode of communications.  Your goal is to spoon feed the reader.
  3. Write as though you were speaking.  The tone you take when writing “right to your audience” should mirror the approach you would take in a one-on-one conversation.  Don’t create a personae on page that isn’t reflective of who you are.  A forced style will quickly signal insincerity.

Now, consider your audience.  Let’s say your goal is to inform your various publics about a new membership service.  To be effective, consider structuring your various forms of communications as follows:

  • The letter to the membership highlights the new service, why it is beneficial, the way to take advantage of it and how this expands the roster of services you already provide.
  • The memo to the staff introduces this as a new opportunity to generate membership enthusiasm, explains the new service, identifies the point person and bullet points how it will be handled on the office level.  It closes with call for pride in the level of services the association is making available.
  • The report to the board begins with a statement of organizational mission and how the availability of a new service adheres to and strengthens that mission.  The report continues with an explanation of the new service, a discussion as to the volume of usage expected over time periods, the impact on staff and point person identified, and how and at what milestones the success of the service will be assessed.
  • The note to the advocate opens with a reminder as to the weight and depth of the membership and their area(s) of interest.  It then expands on how, as the representative arm of this group, your organization is now enabling the membership to meet a particular need and raise their level of professional performance.  The note closes with an invitation to the advocate to contact you about how this or other interest area activities play a role in legislative concerns.
  • Translating this message to the web site requires an abbreviated explanation of the service, bullet point benefits and a hyperlink to immediate access or the contact coordinating immediate access.

Obviously, one message can’t be all things to all people.  Next time you have something to write, take a step back and think how you would verbalize your message to your audience.  Then go right to your audience.  It will have far more impact!

As appeared in Connections, Georgia Society of Association Executives (GSAE)’s quarterly membership publication.

To connect more effectively with your audience when you write, contact us.