In this fifth edition of the writer’s block series, let’s discuss how to make use of technique #5, understand your audience and please them. This method encourages you to think differently and write differently. It also provides you with opportunities to be more creative in developing subjects to write about.

I’m going to draw on recent experience to show how this technique can be used.

I was tasked with writing an article about gardening for an audience of women who were about 50 years old. I’m a man, so imagining what women would like to read about was a challenge all by itself. I’m in my mid-fifties, but since men don’t ever grow up, my age was, of course, no help either.

In order to score a home run with my article, I needed to better understand my audience and then write something that would please them. My first step was to review the website carefully to see how it was designed, organized and written. My mission was to create an image in my mind of how the average reader looked, acted, spoke, walked and held themselves. I needed to create a virtual audience in my mind so I could organize my thoughts and present them in a manner that would be accepted and enjoyed.
No matter how ridiculous it might sound, I invented a vision of just one reader, and I used this vision as my target audience. See if you can identify the audience I needed to please just by reading my description of this imaginary woman.

An older woman, tall, with long wavy dark hair and a few natural accents of gray. She was full of grace and style, strolling through the spacious interior of her fine home. She was wearing an elegant house coat and seemed at peace with her surroundings and the rest of the world. Her home was tidy and tastefully decorated. She would silently sit down at a small, round table in her breakfast nook each morning to enjoy a cup of aromatic coffee and admire the fine trimmed backyard of her home. The landscape behind her home was simple, groomed, and surrounded by a well-maintained cedar privacy fence. She would have two cups of coffee, one while just enjoying her pleasant surroundings and gathering her thoughts for the day, and the other while reading my article.

With that vision, I had my work cut out for me. There was no way I was going to foul up that woman’s morning by writing an article that didn’t resonate with her and others like her.

So, the vision of her helped me identify the style of writing that would be necessary. It would need to be soft, descriptive, leaning towards sumptuousness, and something that could be touched and experienced. I had never written anything like that before – I’m largely a technical writer – so this was indeed a challenge. But, I had a clear understanding of my audience, so it would be all my fault if I didn’t hit the target.

The second part of the challenge for me was to identify a topic that my audience would be interested in. I had to determine the proper topic to address under the general category of gardening. I just couldn’t start writing about trimming trees, pruning bushes, growing carrots or canning tomatoes. My audience wouldn’t appreciate that. So, what would they appreciate? I started to envision a sun room or conservatory – something that would compel my audience to have their cup of coffee out among the plants and flowers. I decided on something that would be functional as well as complimentary to the home – a kitchen greenhouse made of metal framing and glass. It was elegant, useful, and something I could write about from my own experience.

So, if we understand our audience better, we can write in a manner that pleases them. That would be one of the main purposes of writing – pleasing our readers so they want to continue reading what we write. Our understanding of the audience also affords us an opportunity to imagine topics that they might enjoy. If we can put ourselves in their shoes or have a very clear vision of who they are, our imaginations can start to identify a healthy list of subjects to choose from. Once we have our list of topics, we can use technique #1 (drill down deep) and #3 (make a hit list and then re-hit the list) to identify quite a large assortment of articles for development.

Did I hit the target with my article? Well, the editor of the site told me that she was my target audience and my article had her ready to kill for a conservatory. I was pleased to get that kind of reaction from the editor, and now I’ll let you judge for yourself whether my kitchen greenhouse article serves as an example of technique #5, understand your audience and please them.

Clair Schwan hosts Self Reliance where he and his team of writers meet the challenge of regularly writing about nearly everything under the sun that is oriented towards self-reliance, including written and oral communications.