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3.5: Audience Analysis: The Human Factor

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    As stated in chapter 1, all communication involves a sender, a message and an audience. "A" sends the message (either verbally or in writing) with a specific intended meaning to "B." "B" receives the message, processes the message and attaches perceived meaning to the message. This is where it gets interesting. Did the intended message actually get to " \(\mathrm{B}\) "? ? Was the perceived meaning what " \(\mathrm{A}\) " intended? If not, why not?

    Know Yourself

    Before you look around, look in the mirror. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you meet your communication goals.

    • Do you do better with certain communication formats than others? Be aware of your personal strengths. If you know that you’d rather be buried in a pile of fire ants than speak in public, you may choose to send your message in writing-if that’s an option. If not, spend some time in chapter 10 and improve your speaking skills! - Are you an inexperienced briefer that needs notes? If so, make sure they are written in a format that is easy to refer to while the general is listening intently and watching the beads of sweat form on your forehead.
    • Do you have expertise in the area? If so ... great! But don’t lose your audience with lots of lingo and unfamiliar jargon. You may think it’s cool; others may not. On the other hand, if you lack expertise in the area, you will need to focus your research to beef up on unfamiliar territory. Remember, there’s always someone in the crowd that knows as much or more, so you want to be as prepared as possible to answer potential questions.
    • What is your relationship with the audience? Are you personally familiar with them? You may be able to present a more informal briefing or written document if you know this is acceptable to the audience. See the section on tone for more guidance.

    Know Your Organization

    Once you’ve taken a hard look at yourself, take a look at your work environment and your organization. In the military we rarely act or speak in a vacuum. Often we represent our organization, unit or functional area and must understand them and accommodate their views, capabilities or concerns in our communications. The following questions may help bring things into focus.

    • Am I promising something my organization can deliver? (You can substitute boss or personnel for organization.) If not, why are you bothering?
    • Is what I’m saying consistent with previous policy or operating philosophy? If not, you need to shift to a persuasive tone and explain why your approach warrants a change or breach in policy.
    • Who needs to coordinate on this? Who else owns a piece of this action? The coordination game can be a mind maze, but if you leave a key player out, you will undoubtedly hear about it.

    Know Your Audience

    The receiving audience falls into one of four sub-categories. Depending on the type of communication and coordination needed, you may or may not deal with every one of them.

    • Primary receiver: The person you directly communicate with either verbally or in writing.
    • Secondary receiver: People you indirectly communicate with through the primary receivers. Let’s say, for example, that you’re a wing commander. You send an e-mail to your wing first sergeants (primary receivers) identifying establishments near your base that are now designated "off limits" to troops. The first sergeants forward this e-mail to their unit personnel for "widest dissemination." The secondary receivers would be the troops that read the commander’s directive.
    • Key decision makers: These are the most powerful members of the audience ... the ones that really make the decisions. Knowing who they are will help focus your attention and potentially your delivery in larger briefings and certain written communication.
    • Gatekeepers: These are people in the chain that typically review the communication before it reaches your intended audience. Knowing who they are and their expectations can save you embarrassment and help ensure your success in the long run. We all know that administrative assistants are keenly aware of their bosses’ preferences. Listen to their inputs!

    Knowing your audience is nothing new. When you consider warfare as an engagement of strategy and the adversary is your audience (and you are the adversary’s audience!), then the importance of knowing your audience is clear.

    Therefore I say: Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.
    -Sun Tzu

    Sun Tzu was ahead of his time. He knew the importance of audience analysis! We’re not recommending you view your audience as "the enemy," but Sun Tzu had the right idea. It is essential that we know the audience being engaged-in communication or in conflict. Read on for some final tips for connecting with your audience.

    This page titled 3.5: Audience Analysis: The Human Factor is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by US Air Force (US Department of Defense) .

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