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  • Writer's pictureBarbara J. Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

What creates effective communication? Design it with and for the audience.


A group of young professionals collaborating around a table

How would you answer the question, what creates effective communication? Would you include the principles we’ve covered thus far? Communication is a relational activity and creating context for the audience is key.


This post adds the third principle: Design communication with and for an audience.


Creating audience-focused communication is essential to success. Without an audience focus, communication misses the mark.


What is audience-focused communication?

Communicators who assess a target audience’s needs and involve the audience in designing communication to meet those needs will effectively reach their desired outcomes – outcomes communicator and audience determine together.


Involve the audience throughout the communication design process to have the greatest impact.

To be an average communicator… create communication without audience input. After all, you know best.


To be an amazing communicator, who effectively communicates… involve the audience from start to finish. This creates a receptive audience as well as better communication.


Audience-focused communication feels tailor-made. The audience feels seen and heard and in turn, attends to, engages with, and takes action on the message. Effective communication.


What are the steps to creating audience-focused communication?

One of the best tools for creating audience-focused communication is the message development model developed by the International Food Information Council. It consists of the five steps illustrated below.


It begins with qualitative research to discover what an audience wants and needs to know. With this information, initial message concepts are developed. The audience is further engaged to assess these concepts, which are fine-tuned and later validated. The audience is engaged in the entire process.


5 steps in the message development model

Complete these action steps:

  • Determine ways to involve your audience through each step of designing communication.

  • Discover what they need and want. What are their desired outcomes and your desired outcomes? Define and describe them. Refine and revise messaging until mutually agreeable.

  • Determine how they prefer to receive messages and deliver the communication using these channels. Evaluate their effectiveness.


What does this look like in real life?

In creating messages to promote family meals, I learned a tremendous amount from my audiences which helped in developing and fine-tuning messages for various audiences.


One important lesson learned was that not everyone considers themselves in a “family” even though everyone benefits from eating with others.


This finding led to a switch in how I referred to eating events shared with others from “family meals” to “shared meals.” Additionally, examples expanded beyond parents and children eating together to co-workers, roommates, neighbors, and more. Research on the impact of shared meals outside traditional families was sought and shared.


As a result, messages were created that resonated with not only parents and families but with the audiences of college students and single adults I was trying to reach.


Your turn – how can you design communication with and for an audience?


“If you want to create messages that resonate with your audience, you need to know what they care about.” ~ Nate Elliott


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