Audience levels

In addition to analyzing your main or primary audience, you should also consider if you have immediate and secondary audiences. In many cases, the person who will first read the document is not the primary audience. It could be a manager or editor, an intermediary between the writer and the primary audience – this is the immediate audience. The immediate reader often acts as a form of filter or quality control agent of the information before it reaches the primary reader. Additionally, you could have a secondary audience of readers who are likely to read the document even if they are not the target group. Consider an example. If you submit an article for publication to a specialist magazine, you are writing for a public that is interested in the topic of your article; they are your primary audience. However, before the article reaches this audience, it will be read by the magazine’s editor, who will make the final decision about whether to publish the article or not. The editor is, then, the immediate audience (and maybe the only audience, if he/she rejects the article). If published, the article may also be read by readers who are not primarily interested in the topic: they could be journalism students, for example, studying the article as an example of writing. They would be the secondary audience.

Significance of Audience Analysis

Your audience analysis will determine your choice of content – what and how much information you need to give – and style – how you will present this information. Style refers to the emphasis you put on certain ideas and the tone that you adopt in relation to the information you present: your overall attitude and approach as this manifests in the language you use. Your style is formed through your word choice and sentence structure. So, following the results of your audience analysis, you may decide to show a lighthearted approach through your writing – or maybe an evaluative, serious, pompous or respectful approach. In all, for a text to be successful, there must be writer-reader complicity. In other words, the readers must feel that the writer is on their side, supporting their interests and respecting their needs. If readers feel that a writer treats them as an example of a general category, rather than as specific individuals or a specific company, they are more likely to resist accepting the information given.

Factors of Audience Analysis

Psychographics

Psychographics refers to the lifestyle, values, leisure activities and social self-image that the readers are likely to have. Marketing research shows that people react favorably towards products and services that they see as representative of themselves. Similarly, your readers will respond differently to your message according to their values. What are their interests, opinions and hobbies’? In the rapidly changing and diversifying contemporary world, interests and values are less and less tied to demographic issues. For example, when computer games first started to develop, they were associated with a target market of young males in the 15 to 25 age group. As this form of entertainment evolved, the target market changed, and there are now computer games that attract females, older males, and other demographic groups. An analysis of the computer game market, therefore, is more likely to benefit from a psychographic examination that would see the computer game market as a special interest group, rather than a demographic.

Demographic and psychographic analysis are especially relevant in journalistic and public relations writing, where you address a wider public.

Factors of Audience Analysis

Attitude

Attitude refers to the state of mind you expect the readers to be in when they read your document. Will your message find them hostile, neutral or positive’? How motivated are they to read your document’? Are you proposing revolutionary changes to a situation you think your readers will resist changing’? Are you informing them of a breakthrough that will undoubtedly improve the quality of their lifestyle, and that they will be happy to know about’?

Factors of Audience Analysis

Marketing executives and consumer researchers, who have a strong interest in understanding market responses, and who, therefore, conduct extensive research in mass perceptions, take into account five factors of audience analysis:

  • Technical background
  • Status
  • Attitude
  • Demographics
  • Psychographics

Technical background refers to the readers’ knowledge (or lack of knowledge) in the topic that you are writing about. How much technical terminology should you use to avoid sounding either too condescending or too obscure? Should you begin with the big picture to put the reader into perspective, or go straight to the details that you want to focus on? Are you writing to people of the same educational background as yours (i.e. your peers), or to those of different training?