A few words can paint a thousand pictures. It’s what came to mind when I saw the following slogan in big bold font in the Financial Post: We Are Audience Experts.

The phrase, “We Are Audience Experts,” perfectly conveys the essence of business communication. You, as a business person, must be an audience expert in order to shape your message effectively.

All too often I find when coaching my business writing clients, they’re just too focussed on the product or the service they offer rather than on their audience’s needs. I remind them that whether you’re crafting an email, a proposal, or a report you will only connect with your audience when it’s done with her or him in mind.

There’s a great moment in Seinfeld that points out how backward it is to put your audience last. In the episode, one of George Costanza’s girlfriend’s breaks up with him. But the problem is he’s usually the dumper, not the dumpee. In a state of shock George says: “You’re giving me the ‘It’s not you, it’s me routine? I invented ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ Nobody tells me it’s them, not me. If it’s anybody, it’s me.”

It’s too funny! But if you consider his words analytically, you see George is clinging to a false achievement. He’d rather be responsible for the failure of a relationship than have someone else undermine his role as the dumper. It’s not unlike the business person who knows that their written communications aren’t hitting their targets, but still believes that, as long as the words, “Thanks for reaching out” start each email, the jargon will have some kind of a positive impact. But you can’t communicate effectively through the use of meaningless phrases. You need to have something of substance to say, and you need to know to whom you are saying it.

Here are a few tips that will help you be an “Audience Expert.”

How to Become An Audience Expert in Your Business Writing

1. Start at the End
In other words, know your goal. If you want to sell your service to a specific company, do your research in order to understand that company’s needs. Determine the kind of people you will be writing to. Then, tailor you message accordingly. A business manager in a car dealership, for example, may have different needs than a business manager in a boutique cannabis company.

2. Don’t Write a Word
At least, not at first! Make sure to give yourself the time to consider what you’ve learned about your audience. Think about how to approach them in a respectful manner, i.e. by showing that you understand something about the business challenges they face. Avoid slipping into inside-industry jargon or phrases that “everyone uses.” You can’t make a strong impression with templates or carelessly written materials.

3. Embrace “The Three Ps”
In business communication you need to be powerful, persuasive, and precise. Rather than explaining this to you here, I suggest you read a previous Language Lab post called A Blueprint for Capturing Audience Attention.

Of course, the above three points are just a starting point along the path of being an audience expert. Writing powerful business communications is harder than it looks! It’s also something typically not taught in school, which is part of the reason so many people struggle with crafting good business writing.

But think of it this way, if you’re going to email a friend, you probably know what kinds of words and the tone your friend will expect and respond to. When you banter with colleagues at work, you probably know the kind of jokes and quips they like. It’s no different when you send an email/report/pitch to a prospective client. True, you don’t have a personal relationship— yet. But with a little research and thought you can get some ideas of how best to make your approach. And remember, “It’s not you, it’s them.”

 

Contact me at The Language Lab and I’ll coach you on how to improve your communications so you can become an audience expert.

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