Charities: how to write for your audience

First, the bad news.

In charity communications, there’s no such thing as the general public.

If you think your charity’s target audience is “everyone” you’ll be setting yourself an impossible task of communicating effectively with all of them.

Your copy will be so much more effective, engaging and compelling if you are really clear who you need to communicate with, before you start writing, and then write directly for that target audience.

Here are four top tips to help you:

1. Picture your reader

This may feel silly, but it really works. Find a catalogue or magazine and cut out a picture that most closely represents your ideal reader. They should be the same age, gender, ethnic background and, judging by clothes perhaps, same background or social status as your key target audience.

Stick the picture to a sheet of brightly coloured A4. Give your supporter a name, an occupation, family situation, hobbies and interests. The more information you can write down about your reader, the better.

Now, when you start writing, have your new friend on the desk in front of you. Write for them and them alone. Force yourself to write for this one person.

Writing and reading can be an intensely personal affair. Try to write as if you’re addressing one person. It just so happens that what you write could be read by thousands.

2. Tone

Write in a tone that works for your target audience. If you were speaking face-to-face with them, how and where might you be most likely to deliver the same message? Over a pint in the pub? At the school gates? As a tutor speaking to a student? In a caring or mentoring setting? Politely addressing a business leader in a suit? Feet up and fluffy slippers on at home, sharing a cocoa with a good friend?

Try to write in the same tone as you would use face-to-face. Perhaps polite and deferential to a business leader; more friendly and conspiratorial at the school gates; totally relaxed and friendly with a good friend; firm, wise and fair, like a teacher or mentor; a say-it-like-it-is honest mate, over a glass of wine.

3. Get the language right

Think carefully about the actual words you use. Check over your copy to ensure you’re only using language that your target audience would use themselves. The more your reader feels they’re hearing from someone like them, the better.  Don’t slip into the tendency to over-write, in flowery laborious language, just because you’re creating something.

In particular, look for your own organisation’s jargon. Not just the obvious stuff like “stakeholders” and “second-tier”, but also phrases and acronyms that have become so common among you and your colleagues that it might not occur to you that those outside your building, or the charity sector, might not have a clue.

If possible, get someone who is as close as possible to your target audience to read over the copy. Ask them to highlight anything that stopped the flow of reading, even for a second.

4. What do they need to know?

Your reader wants to know what your message has to do with them. Think about what your reader might get out of your writing. Why should they take your action? What is in it for them? Is it something concrete like a product, a new opportunity, improved skills or knowledge? Or something less tangible like feeling good about themselves or contributing to a concrete change?

Don’t assume an “opportunity to contribute” will be regarded as a good for itself. Why would your reader want that opportunity to contribute? How will it make them feel? How will it improve their life? That’s what you should highlight.

Need help with working out your audience and getting your messaging right? I can help. Contact me now!

This entry was posted in Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *