The most important aspect to get straight when you’re faced with the challenge of creating content is this: who needs to know?

Giving your audience the information they need is the most crucial element of effective messaging. Once you’ve got a vision of the audience, keep that etched in your mind as you write or develop content in another form. This doesn’t have to be fancy — a sticky note would do. Pin it in front of you, if that helps. But picture who is going to receive the message. Who will get it  influences what and how it gets delivered.

To show an example of how the characteristics of an audience drive the framing of a message, consider this broad idea: Do the Right Thing.

What follows are five short, Tweet-length messages. Each adapts that broad idea for a different, specific audience.

The message “Do the Right Thing” aimed at five distinct audiences

1. To a congregation: “So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

2. To a first grade class: “If you choose to bring in Valentines cards, class, please make sure you have one addressed to each pupil.”

3. To the family and friends of newly minted doctors being sworn in: “I will follow that method of treatment which I consider for the benefit of my patient and abstain from whatever is harmful or mischievous.”

4. To employees, reading a sign that hangs near the office kitchen sink: “Wash your own dirty dishes. Your mother doesn’t work here.”

5. To a bride on her wedding day in response to the question: Will you love her, comfort, honor and keep her, in sickness and health; forsake all others and be faithful ’til death do you part? “I will.”

The message in each example was, essentially, “Do the Right Thing.” But the characteristics of the audience required the content to change in each case, to enable the message to suit the tone, maturity, circumstances and expectations of the situation.

So, as you create content, first picture your audience and then lock your focus on that as you go. For me, this makes the process of shaping what I want to say much smoother and more organized.

If you try it, let me know how it works for you!