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

Who is my audience?

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

Taking aim at a target

When creating communication, can your audience be “everyone”? No. Messages can only be effective when targeted to an audience. Therefore, the first step in creating communication is to “identify your audience.” To identify an audience is to be able to name them and define who they are. They cannot be “everyone.”

Although audiences can be quite broad, such as “the viewing audience for TV-18” or quite narrow, such as “mothers of toddlers,” each audience will share traits in common that can assist a communicator in targeting a message that meets their needs and interests.

Who is my audience?

For communication to be effective, the first question to answer is “who is my audience?” Every other decision is based on the answer to this question. Without identifying your audience, your choice of channel or the wording and delivery of your message can easily miss the target.

When a target audience member lands on a website homepage, reads an article, listens to a podcast, or watches a video, they should feel the message being communicated has been designed with them in mind. The words and images will resonate. The message will clearly answer their questions, solve their problems, inspire their imagination, or tickle their funny bone.

Your audience for a particular communication may be familiar or new. They may be one you interact with regularly or rarely at all. An audience may reach out to you for information or you may initiate the communication. Whatever the situation, before proceeding – stop and think – who is my audience? Can I define them?

Why is identifying the audience important?

Chapter 3 in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide provides this answer:

‘Communication that is designed to match the needs and preferences of the communicator, not the audience, may be ineffective. When this takes place, the receiving audience may question whether the sender understands what they need. Although other factors determine decisions regarding message content and delivery, knowing the audience is central to all decisions for effective communication.’

This warning is more important than you might think. It is human nature to create communication based on our needs and wants and not the receiving audience's. Additionally, once communication is created, it is very tempting to use the same message for all audiences, not giving a second thought to whether it is what a specific audience wants or needs.

Audience-focused communication

An entire section of Communicating Nutrition is devoted to the topic of creating audience-focused communication. The first chapter in this section, Chapter 10, is titled “Effective Messages Are Created with and for an Audience” to emphasize this important point.

Chapter 10 answers the question, “Why must messages be tailored to the audience?” in this way:

'Short answer: to stand out. … With all the competition for an audience member’s attention, a message must stand out from the noisy crowd. A message that stands out meets a need (“Aha! I need that information!”) and resonates with the audience (“I understand – that message is meaningful to me”).'

When a message clearly meets a need and is meaningful, audiences will pay attention, learn, and take action. Conversely, when messages miss the target, they are a waste of time and resources. To achieve your desired outcomes, identify your audience before creating communication. The 9 steps that follow this one are dependent on answering: Who is my audience?

Can you answer the question, “Who is my audience?” Go no further until you can.

Next up: Step 2: Conduct Needs Assessment. In this step, you will learn about your target audience so that you can meet their needs and preferences.

“Effective messages are created with and for an audience. The goal is audience-focused communication. Picture a target with the intended audience in the bull’s-eye.” ~ Chapter 10, Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide

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