And with that, we continue our series on The Writer’s Triangle with the second angle, Audience.
If you thought the 80’s were the ME-generation, welcome to the 21st century. One of the things that I love the most about the millenials is their unabashed self-interest. In my opinion, they represent the best of what capitalism has to offer, because in their demand for immediate and authentic gratification, I see the cleansing of corporate culture, the separation of the wheat from the chaff, and the true evolution of business as philanthropy.
What this means for you as a writer is that your relationship between purpose–audience-and-author has to be tighter than ever. Whatever your intention in writing a document, you have to demonstrate immediately what that has to do with the reader (see Your Why Begins with a Y-O-U). And you must speak from your authentic self (stay tuned for next week’s post). Fail in either of those tasks, and your reader will drop your message faster than you can say “click.”
Let’s put this in context, by returning to our three examples – a blog post, a letter to your client, and an academic journal article.
1) Do not fool yourself. Your audience is not reading your blog because they love you. They are reading for one of three reasons; they want to be informed, they want to be entertained, or they want to purchase what you have to sell. So your audience– purpose bond has to be solid.
Start by making sure you understand your context and you have a clear reason for writing. Then, do an audience analysis. Gather your results. And do it again.
Remember, the internet is a constant state of flux. So in the context of a blog, you’ll need to stay in touch. And remind your readers that you’re doing so. A few suggestions on how to do that:
* Run Google Analytics. Know who is visiting, where they are coming from, and how they got there. It’s also a good idea to know how long they stayed on the page. The average adult reader takes in 300 words per minute. So you know how many words you can use to capture their attention before they’re gone.
* Survey Your Readers. You know that old saying? Everybody’s got an opinion! We like to be asked about what we’re thinking. And especially if you offer a free gift and make it anonymous, people will give you honest feedback. (Just make sure you’re prepared to take it!)
* Add a Suggestion Box. Your readers know what they want to know. There are simple plug-ins that will allow you to put a suggestion box in the bottom right hand corner of your blog. While they are reading, they can pop in a thought, question, or idea. And boom! – you have your next blog post.
2) To all my letter-writers, stop writing I-centered sentences. Make your audience, their concerns and their interests into the subjects of your sentences. Let me give you an example.
Thank you for your letter of June 9, 2011. We thank you for your interest and your concern. And we are writing to address the questions you posed and offer some answers.
Stop that! Instead, write:
Your letter of June 9, 2011 demonstrates an admirable awareness of our company’s product line. Your interest in our company is welcome and your concern is shared by our senior management. Your questions deserve our full attention, and the answers offered here are just the start to what we hope will be an ongoing conversation.
See how much nicer that is?
3) Finally, for all of you academics out there, I have some news for you. No one reads journal articles anymore. You are dealing with a little phenomenon called the “implied audience.” You have to write through the journal to the editor and the peer reviewer. Most of all, you’re writing for your next supervisor, whether that’s a grant manager, a department chair, or a Vice President of Academic Affairs – in other words, someone you have yet to meet and have no way of knowing anything about. This is what we in the industry call PIA.
Most academics handle the situation by using as many big words as possible. Stop that!
Here’s the new industry buzzword: storytelling. What is the subject of your research? What new, exciting, awesome phenomenon have you discovered? Make that the subject of your article. That means you should also make it the subject of your sentences as often as possible (you’d be surprised how often that tiny little grammatical piece of the puzzle gets overlooked).
Keep your language clean, clear, and crisp. Assume that the next grant manager, department chair, or Vice President of Academic Affairs will not have a clue what you are talking about (they won’t!). Don’t talk down to them. Don’t talk at them. Talk to them, as you would a relative at a family gathering.
Did I get it right? Did I keep it all about you? If I hear virtual crickets, I’ll know the answer.
And remember, October 6 – FREE Webinar on The Writer’s Triangle. This 90-minute webinar will cover all aspects of Context, Author, Audience, Purpose. We’ll use real examples to apply the material directly to two radically different situations: writing for the web and crafting an academic journal article. This webinar is a precursor to an 8-week writing course centered on The Writing Cycle. And registration is now open!