Know your audience to write more effectively

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Know your audience — it’s one of the first rules of copywriting. (Not to be confused with picturing your audience naked. That’s reserved for the public speaking domain…).

Why is it so important? It comes down to making connections with your intended readers. You wouldn’t walk into a university library and start singing at the top of your lungs. (At least we hope not!) And you probably wouldn’t talk to a group of primary schoolkids using a bunch of scientific jargon. You’d find a way to make your topic accessible to them, putting it into words that they’d understand.

That’s the key with good copywriting too. It isn’t about your capabilities or stylistic preferences as a writer; it’s about using language that will connect with the people who you want to read the piece.

Defining your audience

When thinking about your audience, don’t make assumptions. And don’t generalise either.

Knowing your audience means going beyond demographics such as age or gender. Dive deeper and think about values and motivations. What does your audience care about? Why would they take the time to read your copy? What will drive them to take action? What, if any, knowledge do they already have about your topic?

Consider what type of language will be appealing to readers. (This is also a key consideration for organisations when refining their brand tone of voice.) Will pop culture references make people LOL, or go right over their heads? Do people like when you write with familiar, casual terms and slang or do they expect a level of formality?

Think in terms of real people

It also helps to not just think about your audience generally. Think about actual people, individuals who will – hopefully – read and be moved by your copy. Writing an appeal for a non-profit? Think about your Aunt Maggie who’s made monthly donations to a cause she cares about for decades. What kind of language would connect with her? Writing B2B copy for busy marketing professionals? Consider what a full day looks like for someone working in that industry. What content is already landing in their inbox? And what would it take to grab their attention?

Picturing a real person can help you write more naturally (which means more effectively, too).

Ways to get deeper audience insights

Truly understanding your audience is easier said than done, but it pays off to put some time and effort into creating a holistic picture of the people who you want to read your copy.

The above tips can help copywriters get a more comprehensive view of their audience when starting an assignment. From a broader perspective, there are many different ways businesses and organisations can better understand their target market (and then pass those insights on to their freelance writers, of course…). These include:

  • Running focus groups to get a variety of perspectives
  • Conducting an online survey
  • Asking for direct feedback on social media
  • Measuring content effectiveness online
  • Creating personas for different audience segments.

Want to make sure people read your copy? Whatever the medium – print, web, social – start by thinking about your audience first. And when you have crafted your piece, read this great post on how to improve your writing through being a better proof reader of your own work.

 

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About

Kendall Richmond is a California native who now calls Melbourne, Australia, home. Kendall writes for higher education institutions, non-profit organisations and a host of businesses, large and small.

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