Module 2: Adapting Your Message to Your Audience
January 20 2012
Who is my Audience?
- Your audience may include more people than you think.
- In an organizational setting, a message may have 5 audiences:
Initial Audience: Receives the message first & routes it to other audiences.
Primary Audience: Make the decision to act on your message.
Secondary Audience: May be asked to comment on your message or to implement your ideas
after they’ve been approved.
Gatekeeper: Has the power to stop your message before it gets to the primary audience.
(example: executive assistant who decides which personnel get to speak to the boss).
Watchdog Audience: Doesn’t have the power to stop the message & will not act directly on it,
has political, social or economic power.
Audience & the Communication Process
- Understanding what your audience needs and expects, and adapting your messages accordingly, greatly
enhance your chances of communicating successfully.
- True Communication is an exchange of meaning - Example: you and your friend are having a cup of coffee together, and realize you need help studying for an
upcoming economics exam.
1) Choose to encode your request in words.
2) Transmit your message to your friend via a channel. (Channels include face-to-face, memos,
blackberrys, iPods, billboards, telephones, etc.)
3) Your friend must perceive the message in order to receive it.
4) Your friend decodes your words: she makes meaning from your symbols.
5) She interprets the message, chooses a response, and encodes it.
6) Her response is feedback, which may be direct and immediate or indirect and delayed.
- Meanwhile, noise influences every part of the process, and can be physical or psychological.
Physical Noise: talking
Psychological noise: emotional, intellectual or psychological interference. Example:
disliking a speaker, concerned about something other than the message, etc.
- Channel Overload occurs when the channel cannot handle messages that are being sent.
Example: Two people may be speaking simultaneously.
- Information Overload occurs when more messages are transmitted than the human receiver can handle.
Some try to process information on a “first come, first served” basis.
Some try to select most important messages & ignore others.
Depend on abstracts or summaries prepared by others.
- Miscommunication also frequently occurs because every individual makes meaning using different frames of
Why is Audience so Important?
- People need to know what’s in it for them. Successful messages anticipate and meet the audience’s needs.
Audience and Business Messages
- Five out of the 6 questions for the PAIBOC method relate to audience, because successful communication is
always audience-focused. What do I need to know about my Audience?
- You need to know everything that’s relevant to what you’re writing or talking about.
- In general, you will need to use empathy and critical thinking tools.
- Empathy Ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to feel with that person.
- Critical Thinking involves gathering as much information as you can about someone or something, and then
making decisions based on that information. Identifying Key Audience Characteristics for Messages
Message or Purpose Audience Relevant factors
Memo announcing that the company will reimburse All employees 1. Attitudes toward formal education (some
employees for tuition if they take work-related college people find courses enjoyable; others might be
or university courses intimidated)
2. Time available (some might be too busy)
3. Interest in being promoted or in receiving
4. Attitude toward company (those committed
to its success will be more interested in the
Letter offering special financing on a new or used car Postsecondary 1. Income
students 2. Expectations of future income (and ability to
3. Interest in having a new car
4. Attitude toward cars offered by that
5. Attitude about environmental concerns
6. Knowledge about fuel efficiency and hybrid
7. Knowledge of interest rates
8. Access to other kinds of financing
Municipal pamphlet describing new methods of waste Municipal 1. Education
sorting and collecting homeowners 2. Attitudes about home ownership
3. Awareness of environment
4. Feelings about neighbourhood and
Analyzing Individuals and members of Groups
- When speaking to people in your own organization, and in other organizations you work with, you may be able
to analyze your audience as individuals.
- You may already know your audience; it might be easy to get additional information by talking to members of
your audience, talking to people who know your audience, and observing your audience.
- You need to consider the following pertinent information about your audience:
Their knowledge about your topic
Their demographic factors such as age, gender, education, income, class, marital status, number
of children, home ownership, location
Their attitudes, values and beliefs
Their past behaviour.
- If you want to remind readers of relevant facts tactfully:
Preface statements with “As you know,” “As you may know,” “As we've discussed,” or a similar phrase.
Always spell out acronyms the first time you use them: “Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).”
Provide brief definitions in the text: “the principal (the money you have invested).”
Put information readers should know in a subordinate clause: “Because the renovation is behind schedule.” Demographic Factors
- Demographic characteristics can be objectively quantified, or measured, and include age, gender, religion,
education level, income, location and so on.
- Businesses and governments use a variety of demographic data to forecast people’s behaviours, and to design
their strategies accordingly.
- Sometimes demographic information is irrelevant; sometimes it’s important.
- Business and non-profit organizations get demographic data by surveying their customers, clients and donors by
using Statistics Canada data, or by purchasing demographic data from marketing companies.
- Understanding and adapting to your primary audience’s personality can also help make your message more
- Peter Urs Bender describes 4 personality types.
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, uses 4 dimensions
Introvert - extrovert
Sensing – intuitive
Thinking – feeling
Judging – perceiving
- Introvert-extrovert : The source of one’s energy.
Introverts get their energy from within.
Extroverts are energized by interacting with other people.
- Sensing-Intuitive: How someone gathers information.
Sensing types gather information step by step through senses.
Intuitive types see relationships among ideas
- Thinking – Feeling: How someone makes decisions
Thinking types use objective logic to reach decisions.
Feeling types make decision that “feel right”.
- Judging – perceiving: The degree of certainty someone needs.
Judging types like organization, and prefer to finish one task before starting another.
Perceptive types like possibilities, like to keep their options open, and may interrupt
their work on one task to start another.
Using Myers-Briggs Types in Persuasive Messages
If Your Use This Strategy For This Reason
An introvert Write a memo and let the reader think Introverts prefer to think before they speak. Written documents
about your proposal before responding. give them the time they need to think through a proposal carefully.
An extrovert Try out your idea orally, in an informal Extroverts like to think on their feet. They are energized by people;
setting. they'd rather talk than write.
A sensing Present your reasoning step by step. Sensing types usually reach conclusions step by step. They want
type Get all your facts exactly right. to know why something is important, but they trust their own
experience more than someone else's say-so. They're good at
facts and expect others to be, too. An intuitive Present the big picture first. Stress the Intuitive types like solving problems