We find ourselves professionally facing different goals to be achieved with different target audience, more often than not those of the same clients. Striking the right tone can have several advantages over a more generic “by the book” approach to communications. Besides achieving your goal, it establishes and/or strengthens your relationship with your target audience.
It builds your credibility, by demonstrating your attitude towards the subject and the target audience. It engages the target audience and their ilk well, and the right tone is more likely to turn a monologue into a dialogue.
Whether it’s a media release, a company blog or online response management, the approach to striking the right tone involves knowing our goal to that conversation clearly – the impact on our target audience that we want to create and the corresponding action that we want them to take. The more precise these goal definitions are, the easier it becomes to approach communications more accurately.
Naturally it is assumed that communicators tackling this issue have a robust understanding of their target audience. For instance your client maybe a standalone firm, but they may be speaking to a variety of audiences – customers, consumers, investors, value chain partners, regulatory bodies, civil society etc. It is a good practice to study these audiences’ preferences thoroughly and well in advance. Thoroughly being the key word here. When Lenovo was undergoing a rebranding exercise, they made efforts to understand their target – predominantly the Chinese youth, on as many parameters as possible. In a book that I would highly recommend to communicators – ‘Creative Intelligence’, author Bruce Nussbaum has described this process as ‘Immersion’. Lenovo studied a very comprehensive set of cultural aspects of their audiences’ ecosystem; from eating habits to their wardrobes, to the colours they liked to music that they liked to listen. Their successful rebranding and the journey after is a case study in accurate target audience understanding.
While this depth of study may not be possible (or greatly necessary) when one has to put out a media release that has vaguely something to do with the channel partners of their clients, it saves time to have studied and mapped these preferences beforehand. A classification of target audience types and the goals that are likely to be achieved with them can be made, and through pre-emption and experience this matrix of the right tones to be used in each goal-audience combination can be populated. It could look something like this:
|Tonality Cheat Sheet|
This cheat sheet can be handy for communicators who tend to juggle between a varied group of clients and their audiences. Of course this must be continuously reassessed for its accuracy and relevant, but it is a small step towards objectivity into an area that would largely be considered as subjective – tonality.
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