Not long ago, I was sitting in a meeting for a nonprofit's benefit dinner. We were brainstorming various ways to communicate the message for the evening, and make the big "ask" for donations. This was THE annual benefit dinner, so obviously, a lot of pressure was riding on how well this evening went.
There were a lot of smart people in the room. A lot of great ideas. And a whole lot of perspectives.
So, how were we going to decide which idea to act on?
I decided to ask a couple of questions that changed the conversation:
1. Who will be in the room?
2. How do they need to hear the information?
Turns out that this audience was actually a little different than the three previous years. This was the first benefit dinner in which a lot of new people would be in attendance. Previous years had included a lot of friends, family, and personal connections. This year, there were new partners, more sponsors, friends of friends, and a few others who were newly interested in this organization and their cause. So, they weren't as close to the issue as those who had come in the past.
This meant they needed to be spoken to not as insiders, but as those who were just learning about the organization and its cause—because that's exactly who they were.
And given the answer to the first question, how did they need to hear the information?
We actually decided to do this in a few different ways based on learning styles, attention spans, and wanting to spread information out over several hours to be less overwhelming. First, we had an interactive exhibit which brought the issues to life as people entered the doors. Second, we decided to include not only video testimonies, but also have the people in the videos there to meet attendees. Third, the founder and his son gave a compelling "ask," which included some background on how they started the organization as a family, and how it's grown. And finally, as they exited, those in attendance were given a keepsake and a handout with next steps.
All of these things wouldn't have been necessary if the audience had been filled with people who were already familiar with the organization and their mission.
KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE DETERMINES HOW YOU COMMUNICATE YOUR MESSAGE.
But, of course, before you get to your "how," you have to know your "who."
One of the most popular ways to know your audience is to develop a persona. That is, give your "who" a name. There are some marketers who get super detailed about their persona. They delve into every facet of this "person's" life—their spouse's name, the type of pet they own, what they wear on a Tuesday, their birthplace, etc. It sounds a little like coming up with an alias, which I kinda dig. Often, this are fictional personas that represent large groups of people. However, mine isn't that complicated. Maybe that's because I have two personas . . . which can likely lead a number of jokes about having multiple personalities.
But way back in blog post numero uno, I gave some background on why I started SIGNIFY, and who I started it for—my friends. So, because I speak to both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, I have two actual, real-life friends that represent each of those areas. Much of what I've been talking about on the blog has come from conversations with them, or people like them that I've met or helped along the way. That makes my audience persona(s) easy. I write and create content that I think they'd find helpful and useful.
WHEN YOU IDENTIFY OR CREATE A PERSON TO REPRESENT YOUR AUDIENCE, YOU CAN SPEAK TO ONE WHILE SPEAKING TO ALL—AND ACTUALLY BE HEARD.
You have a great message. I know that, and you know that. But do you understand who your audience is, and how they need to hear it?
The chief complaint I've heard about this process sounds something like this, "But our organization (or product, etc) appeals to everyone. Why should we narrow that down?"
In theory, it's a great question. You don't want to feel like you're eliminating anyone that could support or advance your cause.
But it's actually quite short-sighted. There really isn't one thing that appeals to everyone. Not everyone shops at the same stores, eats at the same restaurants, buys the same phones, wears the same closes, donates to the same causes . . . you get the point. That's why we have variety. Otherwise, we'd only have a couple of options for each of those things, and we'd never be overwhelmed on Amazon again.
You can't speak to everyone. You need a message that's tailored to someone. When they read your website, or open your emails, or see you on social media, they need to feel a kinship with you. They need to relate to what you have to say. Giving them that kind of connection is what turns them into fans, or buyers, or donors.
WHEN YOU TALK TO YOUR AUDIENCE IN A WAY THAT COMMUNICATES YOU UNDERSTAND THEM, BOTH IN WHAT YOU SAY AND HOW YOU SAY IT, YOU CREATE A RELATIONSHIP. AND RELATIONSHIPS TURN FOLLOWERS INTO FANS.
This is a process that grows and gets shaped over time. And the good news is that if something isn't effective, you can always try again!
I've created a resource for you to continue working through your "who" and "how."
Let me know how it goes!
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.