Tuesday, 5 March 2013

How well do you know your readers?

Much of the copy I deal with seeks to motivate the reader to do something. It might be buying a product, following safety guidance, investing in something or donating to a charity. But while the end result changes, the process stays the same.

Know who you are writing to

Before you start writing, you should always consider your readers.
  • Who are they?
  • What are they interested in?
  • What's in it for them?

Understanding your audience is the first step in determining the approach you use.

To illustrate this, here are two examples of communications by animal welfare charities and the results they achieved.

Example One

Growing up in Leicester, I always remember the anti-vivisection protestors' stand on the main shopping street. The stand displayed shocking photographs of animal experiments, cruelty and suffering. 

Every week the stand attracted many people who, after seeing the atrocities, decided to sign the petitions and donate money to the cause.

Example Two

For a number of years, a friend of mine had supported an animal welfare charity through small monthly donations.

Just before Christmas, she received a fundraising letter from the charity, asking if she could spare the money to increase her donation. The letter contained a shocking photograph of two dead puppies.

My friend found this communication offensive and distasteful. There was no thanks for the support she had already provided and no recognition of the work her donations had made possible. It made her feel that her contributions were insignificant and unappreciated. In response, she wrote back to the charity and cancelled her direct debit there and then.

Different audiences need different approaches

There are two distinctly different audiences in these examples. 

In Example One strong shock tactics were instrumental in gaining signatures and donations from an audience that was largely unknown.

In Example Two, the charity already knew some things about the recipients of the letters. Principally, they knew their audience cared about animals and were regular contributors to the cause. This knowledge could have helped them to write a more positive, yet still persuasive letter. 

For example, it might have been more helpful to recognise, and show gratitude for, the donations already made. Some hopeful stories on the work achieved through those donations would have made the contributors feel more valued. It could also be argued that such drastic shock tactics were unnecessary.

Getting to know your audience

If you want to captivate and motivate your audience, you need to know what makes them tick. Some of this may be guesswork, but you can also learn some things as you go.

If your audience is a specific gender or age range this can help you to shape your communications accordingly. For example a young person buying clothes may be more interested in trends than in durability. A female clothes shopper will most likely have a different agenda to a male.

If you have already had a successful campaign, analyse what made it so successful and try to build on that for next time.

If you have an email database or website you could use Survey Monkey to send out or publish a questionnaire. This could help you find out more about your subscribers in terms of their expectations, needs or experience of dealing with you. Remember that people may be busy, so keep it short and focused.

Targeting your communications

Getting to know your audience can help you to target your communications more successfully. Targeted communications use audience knowledge to determine:

  • information
  • presentation
  • tone and style
  • content and focus
  • accompanying imagery

Professional copywriters are masters of manipulation who make a living from knowing exactly what to say and how to say it.

If you would like some help to create more targeted and effective communications, please get in touch.


  1. Nice piece Jenny! I like your example, it really clarifies the points :-)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing good post.I like the way of writing and presenting.I searched many resources for my work because i am a writer at a college paper writing service. New resources are giving new information.I will share this post for my friends.