Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Writing for Your (Unintended) Audience

Not too long ago I met with a representative from a non-profit educational technology organization. This group had been blogging on their own for some time, and they'd finally decided that they would be better off outsourcing that laborious, imagination-sapping task. The representative noted that the articles seemed "dull," overly dry and technical in language and tone. After looking at some the previous posts, I had to agree.

But that led to the next obvious question: Who was the intended audience? His answer: "Well, primarily we want to reach out to IT managers and administrators at school districts. But we also get some teachers and non-technical people who read the blog too." 

That second group the rep was describing is what I call the secondary or "unintended" audience. They're good to have on board. They could help talk up your products or services. They may even be the ones who end up using and benefiting from those products or services most directly. They just don't happen to be the specific population will place the order. The problem is that this group doesn't know the technobabble or business buzzwords that your core audience bats around so effortlessly. So what do you do? Do you "dumb down" your content and risk turning off your target demographic, or do you continue using inside lingo that informs the intellect without grabbing the guts?

Fortunately, it's not really an either-or question. A skilled copywriter can present extremely sophisticated processes and concepts as clear, simple, engaging text. This opens up a blog or website to a broader potential readership, allowing it to attract many potentially valuable individuals the owners might never have thought to cater to. This approach doesn't alienate the industry insiders, either; it simply addresses the topics that matter to this audience in a more entertaining and readable way. Who wouldn't appreciate that? 

This approach is especially important if your prime directive is to create new customers, encourage repeat business, recruit supporters -- you know, persuade. (And that's pretty much everyone, if you think about it.) Are you worried about the accessibility of your written content, but you aren't sure how to fix it without robbing it of its depth. Then put that project in the hands of someone who knows how to translate it into powerful, meaningful words for a larger chunk of the World Wide Web.

Have I made myself clear?