In public relations, one of the first lessons we learn is that to deliver real results for our clients (and their bottom lines), we need to take ourselves out of the equation. The second lesson is how to convince our clients they have to do the same thing. Why? Because in most cases, neither we nor our client contacts are representative of the audience they need to reach.

It’s a challenging proposition. Business owners are rightfully very passionate about their companies. Having employees who are passionate about what they do and the organization for which they work is one of the greatest strengths they can have. But these same qualities can create a harmful environment when it comes to creating compelling communications.

The good news is that effective communicators always keep the target audience top of mind when crafting their work. Here are four questions I always ask myself when evaluating whether a pitch, press release, or even a tweet is hitting its mark:

1. Who is the target audience? Yes, this seems obvious, but you can’t ask yourself this question enough. As busy as we are and as entrenched as we can get in getting the work done, stepping back from it and reminding ourselves of the real audience we need to reach has to be the first step each and every time.
2. Am I talking in language they will easily understand? I don’t mean English, Spanish or French. Rather, is there lingo or trade terminology that is more “inside baseball” than it is clear and compelling? There are no extra points for grammatically-complex sentences filled with technical jargon – unless your audience is well-versed in the intricacies of what you do and how you do it. For most businesses and organizations, those details are not germane to the desired action and may in fact cause your audience to tune out. Short, clear, crisp – and commonly-used – language is almost always the best option.
3. Are my personal preferences getting in the way? This is a tough one. As a customer yourself, you want to really like what you’re paying for. That’s understandable. But if you really like green, and you know from research that your audience simply loves orange, then orange is the way to go. The message must appeal to your audience first. You’ll learn to love orange…when it’s helping meet your business goals.
4. What’s in it for them? People are busy. They are also inundated with marketing messages everywhere they turn. The only way to get their attention is to deliver a message that caters to their needs.

The bottom line is this: effective communications are those that work. To drive sales, change behavior or diffuse a crisis, messages must first reach their target. When we remember to take ourselves out of the equation – and see things from the perspective of our audience – we stand a greater chance of success.

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