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Message & Audience

Tailor your communication style to your audience


The style and medium used to communicate a message needs to match the type of audience and what they expect.

Some audiences expect information to be conveyed in a formal way, while other audiences are more relaxed. Some audiences use the manner of a communication to make personal judgements about the sender.

Match Your Style to Your Audience

Some audiences will make technical judgements of what you have communicated. If they have technical or professional expertise then your communication should respect this by using appropriate language.

Some audiences, close colleagues for example, may be addressed more casually or even through a more casual medium.

Some communications need to be ‘put on the record’ and stored for future reference. This will warrant greater care and formality in how things are presented.

Adhere to Any Special Requirements

Some audiences specify how communication has to be presented. This will generally be the case on academic courses or when submitting articles for publication. Numbers of words for essays or reports are stipulated and must be complied with. Type, size and style, along with other formatting features such as page numbering and title pages, may also be specified.

When bidding for funding from various agencies, it is generally necessary to comply with their published requirements. Failure to comply can mean you won’t be considered.

Even where communication style and media are not explicitly specified, audiences generally appreciate concise, well-constructed argument, whether in speech, writing or another medium. They will not want to feel they are wasting their time. The quicker you can get a message across, generally, the better.

Unintentional Communication

Communication can be intentional to achieve a planned outcome or it can be unintentional which can be damaging. Unintentional communication often comes in the form of associated behaviour, such as:

  • Poor punctuality or missing appointments sends a message that the late person cannot be relied upon or does not value the time of the person they are visiting –– a bad tactic that may be interpreted as a lack of respect.
  • Dressing in a style at odds with the organisation may count against a job applicant and it may affect the range of opportunities given to a person in their workplace.
  • Using social media can become a habit. People may have already posted embarrassing images on social media which come back to haunt them.

None of these forms of communication are intended to convey negative messages, but regrettably they do. If these things are interpreted negatively, it may just reflect the prejudice of the observer. Unfortunately, people have these prejudices — the prejudice will not be expressed explicitly, so cannot be challenged. It may, for example, cloud an otherwise ambiguous judgement made by a manager.

If you value the other person’s opinion or feel that an adverse judgement will not be in your interest, then always exercise caution.

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