Write it right: Know your audience

Knowing your audience and developing empathy for their concerns is where great communication begins.

The evolving summer season, access to vaccinations, and subsequent lessening of COVID-19 restrictions has created what I will call a good problem—less focus on work and more on enjoying the good weather and time with family and friends. Both were long awaited, and I think all of us deserve a break after having gone through the past year and a half.

After a pandemic kept us all a part in different parts of the world, a long overdue visit did hearts good.
The garden was another “minor” distraction.

So, without apologies, that’s the reason I’ve been so slow following up on my post from May 2020, “Write it right,” with a series expanding on the 10 tips I shared—the first being, know your audience.

On that point I wrote:

This is number one because you should be clear on who you’re writing for. I sometimes have clients whose work could fit several audiences, but I coach them to think beyond “everyone” right from the start.

The more specific you can be about your audience, the better sense you’ll have of their problems and how you can help.

How do you know them and why should they care about what you have to say? Ultimately, why does this matter to them?

I turned to my friend and colleague, Kristen Lynch of KIK Partners, a full service strategy and fulfillment marketing firm, to add her perspective on this important topic.

Kristen Lynch, KIK Partners

I have always loved watching Kristen’s no nonsense approach as she guides boards, entrepreneurs, executives, senior management teams, stakeholders, her own team, and people like me to create powerful, living brand solutions.

I knew that Kristen would agree that knowing your audience and developing empathy for their concerns is the foundation for effective communication—whether that’s a marketing campaign, a business plan, or even a grant application.

It’s that ability to see and feel what someone else is seeing and feeling from their perspective.

“I imagine that I’m solving their problems and speak to that in the content,” said Kristen.

Cultivating empathy also means understanding that not all of your audience is going to see or get things in the same way. Kristen advises, “Sometimes you need to ‘break it down’ for the message to stick with different segments of your audience.”

Photo: Scott Graham, unsplash

This is where Kristen’s strategic brain kicks in. She uses a dashboard approach to map out different key messages for each audience on a project. “I can then pull what I need out of the ‘dashboard’ for a press release or whatever I’m working on,” she said.

As new problems or opportunities arise, new messages are created and added to the dashboard. In every case, the focus stays on the audience for which each message is designed.

Different messages for different times

Kristen and I both can’t underestimate the importance of paying attention to all the nuances that come with discovering your audience and how you can best serve them.

Sometimes you are writing new ways to solve old problems.

This keeps the message fresh for your existing audience but also current for new audiences who might never have heard your message before.

And then there are those circumstances when you need an entirely new message—when there’s a new problem or a new opportunity or even a new audience.

“The circumstances or lifestyle of your audience may have changed, and they have a different reason to buy your product. We always need to be ready to pivot in this way.” The pandemic provided many businesses with these kinds of opportunities.  Kristen provides the following example.

“I may have thought I needed pet insurance in the past but never got around to buying it. But now, like many people, having spent a lot more time with my pet, I’m motivated in a different way to see how important it is to ensure they have real-time access to veterinary care.”

Equally important is paying attention to what can sometimes be very subtle changes in your audience persona.

“You are still speaking to the same type of person with the same type of problem but there’s a different opportunity that you need to optimize in the language you’re using to reach them.”

Another great example Kristen shared was a developer that was having zero success selling 55 plus condominiums. “They kept focusing on the benefits for those that were ‘getting older.’ What they were missing was that their target audience didn’t think they were old!” Under the direction of Kristen’s team, they shifted the brand messaging to focus more on the fact that buyers had earned this style of living, freeing them up to live their active lives however they chose. They even removed an icon in the logo and visual identity that felt “old.” The condo units were almost completely sold out in less than six months.

“This was such a success because we realized that the problem we had to solve wasn’t making life easier for old people who couldn’t take care of their house and yard any longer but giving them the freedom and lifestyle they found appealing in a place that still felt like a freestanding home—Again, that shift in understanding the problem in a different way and seeing a better solution for the audience,” Kristen said.

This really is the essence of knowing your audience, creating empathy for their concerns and optimizing those opportunities to reach them most effectively.

“It comes back to the nuance of positioning the message—where they are at—and communicating to them from that place,” said Kristen.  

“It’s more than just knowing the demographics of your audience. It’s immersing yourself in their changing story.”

Through this process, you’ll develop empathy for where your audience is at during all stages of their journeys and ultimately, how you can best serve them every step of the way.

Watch for the next post in this series: Be clear on why you’re writing. If you want to see my overview of all 10 steps go to

By Leanne

Leanne is MightyWrite’s lead writer. She believes in the power of stories that focus on our humanity and how what we bring to the world and each other is what really matters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *