The Importance of Knowing your Audience

When writing business documents, no matter how big or small, the first thing to consider is the audience. While some communications may be tailored to prospective customers, others may need to be focused towards investors and stakeholders. The type of language used and the overall style of writing will most likely need to be very different towards these audiences, even if they are portraying similar messages.

Understanding the segment of the audience that a communication is focused towards can make it a lot easier to find the right tone and approach.

Remember, although you are writing about your company, you are writing for the audience. The message you are trying to convey is just as important as the manner in which it is done.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can segment your stakeholders and audiences in order to tailor the information to them in the most appropriate way.

Segmenting the Audience

If we look to create two broad segments initially, we can look at internal and external stakeholders.

Internal Stakeholders

Any type of internal audience is someone internal to the project or business, such as employees or consultants.

Consultants or project-specific individuals are likely to have more in-depth knowledge of the topic they are working on than the rest of the employees. If communicating about something a small team has been working on, be sure to explain any new pieces of information or terminology.

For example, imagine a new piece of technology is being introduced to help streamline a process.

Employees at most levels may be familiar with the standard process, and perhaps even use it in their day-to-day jobs. The process itself won’t need to be explained in great detail.

The new technology, however, will need to be introduced.

Employees won’t need to know the ins and outs of the programming behind it, but they will need to know how it works and fits into the work they do daily.

Try to find a level which shows consideration for their prior knowledge but adequately explains the new technology.

External Audience

The rest of your audiences can be grouped under the external stakeholder umbrella. Let’s explore these categories.

Below is a general list of the types of audiences you could be writing for with external communications.

  • Project sponsors
  • Customers
  • Local Community
  • Suppliers
  • Society
  • Shareholders
  • Creditors
  • Government

A shareholder is likely to be interested in the financial progress of the company, whereas the local community may be more interested in what you can do to help in community projects. Perhaps you have fundraised, or your staff have volunteered a helping hand somewhere or hosted a local event.

Your suppliers will be keen to know what your forecasted growth and goals are for the coming year so that they can rest assured they can continue to thrive in a business partnership with you.

Customers, regardless of whether you work in a B2B or B2C environment, will have different needs to other segments of your audience. They will want to know what’s new, what they can look forward to, and that they are valued customers who can build a strong relationship with a representative.

Knowledge Levels

As well as different interests in aspects of the business, your external stakeholders are likely to have varied knowledge and understanding of your business.

Obviously, a prospective customer and a project sponsor will have different levels of knowledge.

Think, though, about the differences between a current customer and a prospective customer. If one party has worked with you for some time, while the other has never heard of you, it will take different communications to get attention, intrigue and build relationships with them.

Sometimes, you may need to have totally different versions of communications for different audiences. In other cases, it may be something as little as using an extra paragraph to introduce a topic which may be new to an audience, rather than assuming their knowledge.

Different Documents

The list of business communications is almost endless, especially with new media platforms which continue to appear and develop so often.

From traditional communications to digital, there may be a little more scope for fluidity in style, but it is important from a professional perspective to respect the style and format of each type of document.

Here is a selection of some key business documents and the types of audiences you will need to cater to. If a document requires attention of more than one audience segment, you must use your initiative to find a middle ground which suits the style of the document.

Annual Report

  • Shareholders
  • Local communities
  • Creditors
  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Suppliers

Sales Pitch

  • Prospective clients
  • Customers

Social Media & Email

  • All stakeholders, but particularly professional connections on LinkedIn
  • Can use different email templates and formats for different stakeholder groups

Website

  • All stakeholders – all levels of knowledge
  • If there is supplier or contractor-specific information onsite, can protect it with a login

Product Brochures

  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Suppliers

Contracts & Policy Handbooks

  • Suppliers
  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Shareholders

Adapting to your Audience and Documents

We have highlighted at a general level which types of documents are usually of the most interest to each segment of your audience. We have also given some examples as to which pieces of information is the most relevant to which groups and in which tone it should be approached.

The tone of voice, obviously, depends on the product and brand. No matter how light-hearted or silly your brand is, there must still be an element of seriousness in some business documents, particularly in contracts and also in annual reports, although more personality can be shown there.

All in all, the main thing to remember before creating any type of business communication is to think about how much knowledge the reader will have of the brand, product or service. Think, then, about what they need to know, and which pieces of information can be omitted, simplified or highlighted.

Follow this planning rule and you should be well on your way to creating a business document which suits the requirements of each segment of your audience.

Check Documents Before Sending

No matter how big or small the document, or which segment of the audience a communication is going to, details need to be correct and precise. If you would like a second opinion on your document, you can obtain an instant quote for our proofreading service by uploading your document.

Our professional proofreaders can identify any errors in spelling, grammar, syntax and all aspects of the writing to make sure your document is the best it can be before it reaches a wider audience.