If you have an unclear definition of who you are talking to, your message is likely to appeal to no one. If you are a business, you end up talking about your company and product features.
Think of these messages you often see on websites and social media posts:
“We are the best service provider”
“Our mission, vision, about us, our team..”
“We are excited to..”
People who think that they are communicating with an audience usually write things like that.
But the thing is there is no audience. You only speak to one person. If there are 200 people, you are not talking to 200 people. You are talking to 200 individuals.
An audience of people does not receive and process your message in unison. Each person receives and processes the message individually in his or her mind.
An individual is likely to think “I am here listening to Jordan Petterson”. Not “We are here listening to Jordan Petterson”.
I think Swahili preachers understand this. If you listen from a distance, you may think the pastor is talking to one person in that church. Then you get closer and find over 100 people are listening to Mwamposa (a Swahili preacher in Tanzania).
An effective message is one tailored to a single person. This is why in content marketing strategy we have audience personas.
A persona is that one individual representing the customers you target. So you create this fictional person, you give them a name, demographic information, lifestyle, income, etc.
That is where you can craft a message every individual who identifies with that persona will find it is about him or her.
A message generalized to a faceless mass of people does not land well. Try to watch people who fall asleep during speeches. Mostly it is because the speaker is delivering a prefabricated message without caring about who is in the audience. The same goes for social media posts that don’t generate engagement.
Talking to your audience of one
Let us say you talk about how youths can leverage digital to find alternative career paths and escape endemic unemployment. And you probably have a friend (her name is *Minza) or know someone who is struggling with unemployment and doesn’t know where to start.
Now your message will be more impactful if you deliver it as if talking to Minza. Not because you know there are other unemployed youths out there. Others will feel like you are talking to them only if you talk to Minza whose challenges you know well and care to help.
Address yourself as an audience
Nobody knows you as you do. And guess what, there are things bothering you that others find bothering too. Opinions that others may find interesting. But you don’t know who these “others” may be.
So when in doubt, make yourself your own target audience. Project yourself out there and write to yourself. I will give you an example:
In this LinkedIn post, (sorry it is in Swahili) I say “If you come from a low-income country or a poor family, make sure you earn in dollars on the internet”. This is me telling me. Because I live in a low-income country and my family has struggled with not having many resources for a long time. (See similar post in English)
So the others who liked commented and shared just happened to relate to the message.
Also in this post, I talk about the challenges one goes through to register a business entity in Tanzania. This is something I have experienced while registering Tanzlite Digital and I found them absurd. Turns out I am not the only one.
NOTE that in all those posts I don’t use the personal pronoun “I”. It is like I am telling you if you happen to hear an echo in your own experience.
So that’s it. To be compelling, to deliver clarity and conviction, master the art of talking to an audience of one.
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