The right content and tone for your audience
By Toss Gascoigne
Designing messages is not only about their content, but also about the way they are worded for your audience.
The first step is to listen to the audience to work out what they think they need to know, and how they want to know it.
If you don’t understand your audience, the points you want to make won’t even get to ‘first base’. What is your aim? To inform, persuade, or get people to act?
The second step is to pre-test the draft messages, to get feedback and reactions.
Wording and tone
Remember, audiences like short, direct, factual and simple.
For example: food labelling systems fail because it’s small print, too technical and the maths is challenging. What people want is a traffic-light system: green for ‘eat’, orange for ‘eat sparingly as a treat’, and red for ‘eat only if obesity appeals’.
You might also consider wrapping a message in a story. People remember stories, but forget facts.
And tone counts. Get the tone wrong and the audience rolls its eyes – think of advising teenage kids on drugs or the dangers of parties: “Oh, Muuuummmm!”