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Writing: Know your Audience

2 min

The most important pre-requisite to effectively communicating in writing is knowing your readers. Before you start writing here are three tips to give yourself the best chance at achieving the desired outcome from your written communication - be it an email, a business review document or otherwise:

1️⃣ Who will read this? The first tip is identifying precisely who will read the communication you are working on. For instance if you are writing a business review document, who is it being delivered to? Do you know their names, levels, functions etc. Why is this important? If I know, say, that this document is being reviewed by an audience outside of my direct organization, I would double down on background details, including explanations of acronyms, key metrics, etc.

2️⃣ Do you know the readers well enough? The second tip is about knowing these readers as well as possible. What do they look for? What side of the topic you are presenting are they on (if there is a debate)? What are their primary goals? If you can't get this information first hand, make sure you have proxies that can at least give you feedback along the way. For instance, if I know that this document is being reviewed by the VP of Finance, and I have not written to them before, I can ask my finance business partner to review the communication along the way to give myself a better chance of addressing what the VP is likely to look for.

3️⃣ Why would the readers care? The third tip is about knowing why your readers will care and be interested to read the communication at hand. For example, if you are looking to get resources or help from their team to complete a project,  what goal/objective of theirs does this ask help advance? The clearer you are about this aspect, the more it will help you direct the content of the communication and influence the outcome.

👉 On the topic of written communication, a practical resource I highly recommend: Simply Said - Communicating Better at Work and Beyond - by Jay Sullivan.

👉 Similar guidance on putting the audience first applies to public speaking as well: - by Deborah Riegel.