How to … elicit an audience response

Caroline Florence, 17th March 2015

Last month, we started a new series that looks at how to be more effective in getting your message across. The series is based on my new eBook, 'Content that CLICKS: How to create great content in twenty steps.'

The book looks at the five responses that your content needs to evoke in your audience and the 20 actions that will help you to achieve that.

Last month, the series started by looking at how you can engage with your audience.

This month, the focus is on how getting to know your audience enables you to find the ‘sweet spot’ that will encourage them to respond to your content.

Know your message

Executives tend to jump too quickly to the execution mode. They ask questions about what they should include in their content rather than about the desired outcome. Many second guess or cram multiple messages into one piece of content just to ensure that they cover all of the bases.

Visualising the desired outcome of a piece of communication helps to clarify its purpose:

  • Be clear about your objectives, the goal you want to achieve and how your message will help to solve a problem or answer a question for your audience.
  • Stick to one core message to get your point across, so that both you and your audience stay focused on the end goal.
  • In the absence of a clear message, it’s easy for audience members to get confused and to develop their own interpretations. 

“I suppose the bits of writing that most connect with me are the ones where you just know intuitively that the writer knows what they are writing. Not just that they know their topic but they know why they are writing. There is a desire, a reason, to communicate. They know what it is that they desire to communicate and so there is coherence. But you also feel like you are connecting with the writer.”- Managing Partner, research and planning agency.

Things to consider

Key questions to ask yourself before starting to write include:

  • Why am I writing this?
  • What am I expecting to influence?
  • Why is this important to my audience? How will it help them?
  • What is currently boring, painful or confusing about the topic and how can I make it more interesting?
  • Why should they care?
  • What do I want the audience to do as a consequence of hearing or reading this?
  • How can I sum it up in ten words?

Identify your core message

Part of knowing your message involves identifying the core elements:

1. Rather than second guess the desired outcome, ASK. It’s surprising how many people fail to do this. Ask your audience or the content sponsor for their version of success. This should be part of a good briefing process.

2. Define your main goal in one sentence before planning your message. Remember to focus on how you want your audience to react, rather than what you want out of it. Avoid goals such as: ‘I want to sell them…’ or ‘I want them to ask for my opinion on…’. Instead, use audience-centred goals such as: ‘The audience should feel that they’ve learnt something new about…..’ or ‘The audience should think I have an interesting point of view on…’ or ‘The audience must want to find out more about how we helped….’

3. Identify the single message that will help you to achieve your goal. Remember to keep the core message as simple and as tightly defined as possible. You can then cut it down into smaller pieces, ensuring that each chunk supports the core.

“It’s a fantastic way to put all the other crap aside and really think about it. It’s a really good exercise. You need to do all the hard work to come up with it, but it helps pin down exactly what your message is” - Engagement Director, global communications agency.

4. Refer to your core message at all times. Keep it written down somewhere visible so that you can constantly remind yourself of it. When writing your content, it can be easy to go off on a tangent, so occasionally check your core message to ensure that your content is still on track.

Over to you!

This is all very well in theory, but why not start putting it into practice now?

Review a recent piece of content that you’ve created:

  • Can you define the desired outcome of the communication? 
  • Is this obvious from the content? 
  • Ask someone else to review it and get them to comment on it.

A free gift…

Are you a business executive, manager or leader who wants to improve your cut-through and impact with colleagues, stakeholders and clients?

Do you want to hone your existing content skills by accessing high-impact tools and techniques that you can apply straight away?

Download the first chapter of ‘Content that CLICKS: How to create great content in 20 steps’ FREE of charge.