Daphne's most recent book is about the tension between giving at Christmas and the kind of fundraising that goes on year round in churches: Christmas in Fountain City
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Audience analysis? Asked differently, "Who are other people?"
This question gets answered in all kinds of ways in the workplace, and experts who counsel others in marketing have all kinds of theories about how to assess who other people are. They do this often in terms of categories like age, gender, level of education, and status.
Self-evident clues like factual tidbits tell others something about readers and customers and workplace colleagues, but they can’t solve the ultimate mystery of who other people are for their needs and personalities and drives and mysterious responses are as fluid as your own. You can have a good day. You can have a bad day. Someone can be nice to you. Someone can be rude to you. It could be your birthday or an anniversary—either of which you would like to remember or forget. The circumstances surrounding other people and the moments when they intersect with the words you have written are as fluid as the stimuli—both inner and outer—that affect the way you think and how you respond.
Does that mean you can’t figure out your reader? Not necessarily and it also means that you don’t have to figure out your reader altogether. Writing with mindfulness about who is reading your work begins with what all people share everyone and that is a need for respect.
Respect the job the workplace document needs to perform and fulfill that basic goal.
Respect the reader's time by providing that content efficiently and in a style that does not impede understanding what is meant.
Respect the reader by choosing words that fulfill the task of providing unbiased content.
Respect sounds like courtesy.
Courtesy builds relationships out of discipline and takes the guess work out of doing it right or wrong.
To prove this consider the format of a business letter. Here are its inherent structural parts which exist for logic’s sake but serve the nature of consideration called courtesy.
The return address: Tells the reader right away who you are and how to get in touch with you.
The inside address: Acknowledges the reader and allows him/her to see that you know his/her title.
The salutation: Achieve instantaneous connection with the reader just by using his or her name respectfully (Rule of thumb: Use the last name with the title until you have been invited to use the first name.)
First paragraph: Makes a connection by announcing the purpose of the letter or connect the content of the letter to a question that has been asked so that no one has to read your mind about the intention of the letter.
Body of letter: Provides the information that is required for documentation purposes or solving of a problem.
Complimentary close: Supply a gracious good-bye--the kind you make in a doorway before you leave. (Tip: Use a comma after the complimentary close, such as: Sincerely yours, )
Your signature: Make it plain who you are again and for business purposes build your name recognition. (Be reminded that in social settings when someone is introduced names are repeated back and forth in order for people to hear the name again in case he/she misses it the first time. It might sound like this: Jim Davis meet Lynn Smith. Lynn meet Jim.) See how your return address and the signature at the bottom repeat this act of courtesy?
Asking the question about who other people are in order to write more mindfully is a process that never ends. You begin it and continue to do it, and people around you who are aware of how important it is to signal respect and build relationships in the workplace in order to create trust and increase productivity make a habit of relying upon the discipline of courtesy to keep the friendly exchange of information flowing with respectful good will. When that happens you don’t have to solve all the mysteries of who everyone is; you simply need to prove day after day that you are on top of your workload and handling your responsibilities in a timely and respectful way.
The natural trust that results from that discipline of professionalism will do the rest.