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Using Audience Analysis to Master Organizational Leadership

To succeed as a leader, you must be able to navigate through times of organizational change — and do it well.

What's one way to accomplish this? Developing a strong organizational communication plan and interacting effectively with your employees. While this may sound daunting, there is a tool that will help you: audience analysis.

Using audience analysis can help you craft your message specifically for your intended audience in terms of language, graphics and even medium (e.g. print vs. video).1

The more you understand and cater to the needs of your audience, the more likely they will be to process and use this information. That is why some organizational leadership master's degree programs include audience analysis as a part of their curriculum.

How It Works

The first step in audience analysis is to identify your primary audience. This can help you narrow your focus and enhance people's comprehension of your message.2 It is important to consider your audience's professional experience, job responsibilities, education and attitude toward the information you are sharing. Also factor in your relationship to this audience — think about how they might react to you as the person delivering this message.

Now, take what you have learned about your audience and use it to develop your message. This can help you determine the content, word choice and tone of your communications. There are many creative tactics you can use to shape your message properly, including brainstorming, freewriting and playing devil's advocate.3

You can continue to shape your message in the process of communicating with your audience. Keep in mind that communication is a two-way street. Anticipate skepticism — it is natural for your audience to initially distrust someone who presents himself or herself as an "expert."4 If you choose not to listen to their objections, you can jeopardize their trust and undermine your ability to effect change. Using audience feedback to adjust and improve your communication will help you succeed.5

Once you have examined these factors, it is time to put that information to work. Consider the significance of what you have learned and allow it to inform how you craft your messages.6 That is the key to using audience analysis for effective communication.

Why It Is Important

In order to establish yourself as a leader within your organization, you must exhibit the ability to communicate effectively with employees. It is likely that your audience will comprise a wide range of people with different experience levels and backgrounds. There will be times you may face obstacles such as hostile attitudes, impatience or distraction.7

Audience analysis allows you to consider these factors and ensure your message will resonate with your intended audience. In addition to assisting your organization navigate successfully through obstacles, tailored communication plays a critical role in making employees' work more meaningful.8 It can mean the difference between awareness and actual understanding.

When considering a master's degree in organizational leadership, check if the curriculum covers audience analysis. Courses such as Leadership Communication and Coaching Essentials at Manhattan College feature tools that are important for developing a strong communication plan. To learn more about Manhattan College's online M.S. in Organizational Leadership program, call 855-841-2843.

1Dunn, C.K. (2015). Audience analysis: Taking employees from awareness to understanding. Professional Safety, 60(11), 30-34.

2Newman, A. (2014). Business communication: In person, in print, online. Retrieved from Google Books website: https://books.google.com/books?id=4TIeCgAAQBAJ

3Callison, D., & Lamb, A. (2004). Key words in instruction: Audience analysis. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 21(1), 34-39.

4 Johnson, J. (2015). Getting your message out (and why it's not enough). Communications Skills for Leaders, 72(7), 10-16.

5Callison & Lamb, 2004.

6Callison & Lamb, 2004.

7Callison & Lamb, 2004.

8Haynie, S. (2015). How tailoring communication impacts employee engagement. Retrieved from Halogen Software website: http://www.halogensoftware.com/blog/how-tailoring-communication-impacts-employee-engagement