Archives for posts with tag: audience

Mrs. Halverson taught my fourth grade class. I fell in love with writing that year. And I am pretty sure it was because of the way she made writing and story telling come alive.

When I think back to the lessons I learned that year, three stand out that remain just as relevant now for me and my work. And because so many of us must write, blog, communicate and create content, these three things are great reminders for almost all of us grown-ups (who know a lot but sometimes forget the basics we learned in the first place.)

So, next time you need to create content or write something, take some tips from Mrs. Halverson and do these three things:

Start with a topic sentence

When you use a topic sentence to start each paragraph, it helps you write the rest of the paragraph. Here’s how you do it: Pick the one idea you want to get across in that paragraph. And then summarize it. That becomes the topic sentence. It is most convenient as the first sentence. Like the CEO of the paragraph, the topic sentence sets the tone, the direction and tasks of the other sentences in the paragraph.

A topic sentence helps readers, too. A good topic sentence directs the focus of a paragraph and signals what’s coming. It prepares the people reading your work for the information the rest of the paragraph gives. That means readers don’t have to work as hard to grasp the meaning. Why? Because all of the thoughts in a paragraph relate to each other and flow coherently from the main thought that started it.

(By the way, both of the paragraphs above start with a clear topic sentence that makes one point. And the rest of the sentences support that point with additional detail. Easier to write. Easier to read!)

Spot barks

Nothing is simpler in writing English than using this construction: subject/verb. Grass grows. Children play. Sun rises.

Even with an object that says what the subject did to (or with or about) something, it’s still joyfully simple. I cut the grass. The children played outside. The sun rose today.

When you get tangled up in a sentence and don’t know how to make it better, break it into more than one sentence. Then start each one with a subject followed by a verb. I promise you that doing this will let you make your point. It will also let your readers understand your point.

Here’s an example (with a topic sentence)

Fear hides sometimes. We dread change. We avoid new things. We form habits. And we like routines. We prefer what we know. Fear lurks in the unknown. We don’t always admit our fears. But our fears govern us, nonetheless. Sometimes we know it. Other times we don’t. Things that stay in the shadows stay scary.

Make it fun

Kids write stories for fun. They use their imaginations. They dream up amazing characters. And they love to tell people about their ideas. Remember that? Part of what made me love writing in Mrs. Halverson’s class was that it was just so darn fun.

We can all choose to reclaim some of that joy. Shake off some of the weight about writing that’s piled on top of many of us. Create like you can’t wait to show somebody. And have some fun.

Here’s another post about what to do when you get stuck for ideas.

Let me know if these three lessons help. I blog and Tweet about creating good content, among other things. So if you liked this post, please follow me for more ideas. I’m on Twitter here.

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!

Which tools are best for making a message with impact?  It depends.

  • Who do you want to reach?
  • Why?
  • If you’re successful, what would that look like?
  • And how would you know?

It’s common for folks to start at the wrong end of the process. Often, they’ll focus on a tool they want to use. Like this: “We need to get the word out; we need a press release.” Or, we need a video that “will go viral.” Or a brochure, PowerPoint deck, Facebook page or Twitter account. And so on.

You get the idea.

But those are tactics, not impacts. In other words: it’s like getting snagged in the details of whether you need a rake, a hoe or a trowel to weed, when what you want is a thriving garden.

The big picture is the savvy view. That’s the focus that makes sense. Let the outcome you want drive the tools you use and inform the process for getting there. So, instead of focusing on the specific product you think you need, zero in on the outcome you want. Only after deciding on that goal can you devise a targeted approach to reach it.

Sure, if you want to influence an audience, you’re bound to include social media. And specific tools. But first, be clear why you’re choosing those options. Know what they need to know, why.

Audience is important, of course. But so is framing the information the audience needs to have. Tell them what they need to know so it enables you to make your point.

Starting at the end: the desired result

See, it’s not about just doing something — anything. It’s about getting results. If your message gets scattered to the wrong audience or is sent without finesse, it won’t make the impact you want. Worse, it could undermine your efforts. And turn off people you wanted to win over. You might not get to come back for a second try.

Even if you know what you want to say, distilling your message can be tricky: The outcome must be guided by answers to some key questions:

  • What do you do?
  • How do you do it?
  • Why does it matter?
  • Who needs to know?
  • What do they need to know? And, why?

You might decide to call in a consultant to advise. That’s what I do for clients: Help them put ideas together in fresh ways and offer insights that not only create impact but also unearth value.

If you find, though, that you are facing a project without an outside perspective, you should still remind yourself to focus on the end result you want and work backwards.

It’s only that way that you can find the best steps to take to get there . . . and to get out of the weeds.