Lessons In Not Sucking: Know Your Audience

November 15, 2007 by

This is part six in a series on Lessons In Not Sucking. Today we discuss the idea of knowing your audience. It’s basic Communication 101, and I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I forget this stuff and just proceed as if I know how to communicate to everyone. Do you have additional wisdom to share? Speak up.

1. Create people playing cards.
Ad agencies do this all the time. Profile your audience (with real data/research) and then create posters or cards for a few of the people that represent the overall audience you’ve profiled. Hang these images of the people in front of your writers, designers, creators, etc., so that you always have those people in mind when you communicate.

2. Surveys and polls.
Conducting surveys and polls is as easy as SurveyMonkey.com or PollMonkey.com (which powers our poll in the right column). I also just heard about My Church Survey. These are handy examples of how easy it is to get feedback from groups of people. The more you know about who you are communicating with the better you get at communicating.

3. They audience is always right.
Often when I speak at events, I tell the story of Robert E. Lee, the famous Civil War General. He never sent a communiqué to his generals before first asking a private to read it. The private had to read the letter and then re-state in his own words what the call to action was. If the private didn’t get it right, Lee assumed it was his fault, not the private’s. Lee would re-write it as many times as necessary to be perfectly clear and start the cycle over again.

4. Immerse yourself in what they’re doing.
Watch the shows they see. Play the games they play. Eat what they eat. Read what they read. The more you understand their life, the more you know how to connect with it.

5. Anticipate their future.
Don’t just get caught up in what they’re doing now, anticipate where they will be in a few weeks, months and years. When you know where they’re going, you can arrive early and be waiting.

6. Lost in translation.
Pay attention to how your message is being translated. I wrote an entry on this several years ago.

7. Be one of them.
Be a shadow of a couple of the people from your profiles. Follow them for a day from morning to night.

8. Observe their behavior.
This is the opposite of immersing yourself in what they do. Instead of doing what they do, observe how they interact with what they do. See what makes them cry, what makes them laugh. What scares them? What moves them to action?

9. The middle, not the masses.
Don’t always aim your communication at the masses by trying to capture or engage everyone. Go for the people in the middle, the largest representation, and target them. When you try and reach everyone you reach no one. When you try for someone, you can reach many.

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

8 Responses to “Lessons In Not Sucking: Know Your Audience”

  • Matt
    November 15, 2007

    You know that Robert E. Lee and the South lost the war, don’t you? Maybe he should have rewritten his orders one more time…

     | Permalink
  • erik
    November 15, 2007

    Mark Batterson, pastor from National Community Church, just shared on his blog one of the surveys they developed to garner feedback from the church.
    NCC Annual Survey

     | Permalink
  • Anjuan
    November 15, 2007

    I like the people playing card approach. I can think of a few profiles: The Model Family (Dad is a Deacon/Minister/Pastor, wife leads the Women’s group, kids sing in the choir), The Divorced, The emo Teens, The Lost Members (on the church roll but haven’t seen them in months), The Givers (the 10% of the congregation who, if they stopped giving, the church would soon be bankrupt), etc.

     | Permalink
  • Mark Howell
    November 16, 2007

    Good stuff! I can see using the list to put together a great off-site, developing a better understanding of the audience. Thanks for the list!

     | Permalink
  • Dave Bourgeois
    November 19, 2007

    I did the survey thing at our church to help us better plan our web site redesign. For the most part we did not get too may surprising results. However, one interesting thing we did find was that our older members were almost a tech-savvy as the younger generation. I posted a summary of the results in my blog at http://lessonsfrombabel.wordpress.com/2007/08/08/know-your-users/ as well as a copy of the survey we used.

     | Permalink
  • sean salter
    November 19, 2007

    Great stuff Brad, I love it it when any writer uses history as a reference!
    Just for the record because I can never let go of such things, the South DID NOT lose the war because of Robert E. Lee’s lack of “strategery” if you iwll :-P
    Again, great stuff Brad!

     | Permalink
  • Brittney
    March 10, 2008

    I appreciate the reminder tips. However, how have you gone about getting research data on the target audience that currently does not have a connection with your church, or may not have ever gone to church? And of course, how do you do this on a tight budget?

     | Permalink
  • Church Growth Strategies
    January 17, 2010

    Don’t forget number 10.
    Don’t try to communicate to everyone at one time. Sometimes it is best to talk to people in smaller groups to be more accurate in your communication.

     | Permalink