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Calling All Halfwits: Know Your Audience

Posted on May 01, 2011 @ 9:53 PM in Marketing, Uncategorized

In 1968, my family’s favourite aunt, Grace, decided it was time to gather the clan for a reunion. Since my mother’s side was largely surnamed “Witt”, Grace’s invitation went out: “To all you Witts and Half-Witts”.

Now there’s a woman who knew her audience. (Unfortunately, I’m only a Quarter-Witt but I hope you’ll keep reading anyway because there’s a lot to be said for calling ‘em as you see ‘em).

Who’s Your Audience?

As a business owner, you no doubt have a very good handle on your audience or target market. I can just see you, whipping out enough stats, pie charts, bar graphs, demographics, psychographics and research data to choke a Harvard MBA.

But all those demo-psycho-pyrotechnics mean diddly if you’re not communicating your message in a language your audience understands and appreciates. Did you know there are different “registers” of language? Or, at the risk of insulting Monsieur Roget (he of thesaurus fame), there’s no such thing as a synonym?

Writing to Live in Syn

Linguists contend every word is unique; there are no true synonyms. Each word varies from the next by an ever-so-subtle nuance of meaning. For example, the following words may appear to be synonymous: try, attempt, strive, endeavour.

But from “try” at the bottom register to “endeavour” at the top, each pseudo synonym is progressively, perceptibly multiplied by a “high-falutin’ factor”. The Harvard MBA could quantify that for you. Don’t ask me. I’m a words person.

Point is, an advertiser is right to say, “Try it. You’ll like it!” He’s speaking to his audience. “We shall endeavour to ensure this is pleasing to you in the utmost” is best left for the Queen to intone at the Royal Wedding Reception. (“Speak” versus “intone”. See what I just said there?).

Write the Way You Talk. Hmmm, OK. Maybe Better…

So when you write your posts, print ads or other communication pieces, get inside the head of your target market. Pretend your customer is sitting across the table from you and you’re just having a normal conversation. You will naturally adjust your register.

If your customer is your friend, the language you use will be quite different than if he or she is your doctor, pastor or spinster third grade teacher. Believe me. Pay attention to the distinctions. You’ll soon learn to write with the same attention to linguistic detail. And you’ll choose your words more wisely.

We Didn’t Call Her “Amazing Grace” for Nothing

By the way…the response rate to Grace’s invitation? 100%. If you try, attempt, strive or endeavour to get, obtain, achieve or procure a tenth of that, you’ll be laughing your head, fanny, arse, etc. off.

If you got anything at all out of this blog post – even if only a smile – could you please do me a HUGE favour and help me help others write better? Just Retweet this on Twitter or Like it on Facebook. Thank you. You’re the BEST! LA

PS – I’d LOVE it if you’d take a minute to comment below. Thanks again!

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4 Responses to Calling All Halfwits: Know Your Audience

  1. I smiled! I’m a big fan.

    Your passion for words matches my passion for numbers. Did you know that a 10% unemployment rate 50 or more years ago wasn’t as bad as a 10% unemployment rate is today? A 10% unemployment rate today might affect up to 20% of families because more wives/mothers now work! Some Harvard MBA needs to calculate the exact number.

    When I need some good words, you’re my source. Always!

  2. Lou Anne

    You’re a textbook case of someone whose passion drives their profession.
    You have a craftsperson’s command and an assiduous approach – a bona fide “wordsmith.”
    Fortunately for others, and especially your clients – we all benefit greatly!