How to Conduct Audience Analysis

How to Conduct Audience AnalysisDetermine who your audience is. In other words, who will be reading this document? You very likely won’t be able to provide a detailed response to this question yet; that’s why you’re doing an audience analysis. You should, however, be able to reaction the question in general terms. [1]

  • For example, will your document be read by someone attempting to install some shelves? Employees of a certain company? Computer programmers attempting to work out a bug in some fresh software?
  • Consider why this audience will be reading your document. What task will it help them perform, or what do they need to know?

Determine what you need to know about your audience. Depending on who you’re writing for, there are different types of information that it will be helpful for you as you work to make your document as useful and/or persuasive as possible.

  • You will almost always want to ascertain your audience’s levels of skill about and interest in the topic. [Two]
  • Depending on the audience, the situation, and the type of document you are preparing, there are many other lumps of information that might be valuable, such as where the audience is likely to read your document, and a multitude of demographic factors such as age, gender, education, professional background, cultural background, and so on. [Trio]
  • Determine how to conduct your analysis. Your audience analysis can be formal (i.e. using a survey or other questionnaire, structured interviews, etc.) or informal (i.e. based on more casual conversations with members of the audience). The best method will depend on the audience you are attempting to reach, how much information you need about them, and what resources you have available for conducting your analysis. [Four]

  • Sometimes, you may be able to find information that someone else has already collected in the form of surveys or marketing research that can stand in for collecting your own data.
  • Create your analytical instrument. Your analytical implement is the instrument you’ll use to gather your information, e.g. your actual questionnaire or interview questions. The content should be driven by your brainstorming in step two.

  • Attempt to avoid creating questions that lead your participants toward a given reaction, even if you think it is correct. For example: “Now that we’ve shown you how effective our product can be, how likely are you to buy it?” or “How do you feel about the president’s oppressive tax policies?”
  • Avoid “dual barreled” questions. Questions that ask about more than one thing at a time may confuse your participants or result in unreliable data. [Five] For example, you shouldn’t ask: “How often do you read articles about science and share them with other people?” Instead, break this into two questions: “How often do you read articles about science?” and “How often do you share articles about science with other people?”
  • If you use a survey, keep it as plain and brief as possible. [6]
  • Part Two of Three:
    Conducting your analysis Edit

    Select your sample. Once you’ve determined which questions to ask, it’s time to determine who you should ask them to. If you can’t include everyone in the audience in your analysis, attempt to select a group of individuals who you think are representative of the audience you hope to understand.

  • For example, if you think your audience is mostly women, attempt to select a sample that reflects that.
  • Other characteristics that might be useful in selecting participants could be their occupation or employer (especially if you are writing something for people in a particular field), their ethnic backgrounds, the city or neighborhood in which they live, or their membership in a particular organization.
  • Which characteristics are most significant will vary based on the type of document you are producing and the audience you are hoping to reach.
  • Collect your data. Conduct your survey, interviews, or conversations with potential audience members.

  • If you are using a survey, you may want to let your participants remain anonymous, especially if you are asking them about anything sensitive or private. This can lead to more fair responses. [7]
  • If you are interviewing participants in person, you may find it useful to ask clarifying questions or probe for more information by telling things like “can you tell me more about that?” or “tell me why you feel that way.” At the same time, how you conduct the interviews can affect how people reaction your questions, so you’ll need to work hard not to demonstrate your own biases or make your participants feel like they should response in a particular way. [8]
  • For interviews or informal conversations, it’s often a good idea to record the conversation for later reference, if your participants agree to this. Never record anyone without their permission, as this may be a disturbance of state law. [9]
  • Analyze your findings. Now it’s time to have a look at the information you’ve collected and see what it tells you about your audience. How knowledgeable or interested are they about the topic you’ll be writing about? How old is the average person in your sample? What proportion of them subscribe to the publication you are writing for?

  • If you need to conduct in-depth statistical analyses of your data, there are software programs that can help you, such as Stata or SPSS. These programs are costly tho’, and for most purposes, calculating elementary percentages is more than adequate. Common applications like Excel can help you with organizing and analyzing your data. Putting your questions across the top row in a data sheet and then placing each participant’s responses in the rows below will permit you to quickly summarize the range of responses you got for each question.
  • If your analytical instrument used open-ended questions, i.e. questions that do not specify a limited range of possible answers (for example “How do you feel about Company X?”), you will very likely want to classify people’s responses into categories (for example: “skeptical,” “hostile,” “uncertain,” or “positive”) so that you can summarize how large numbers of your participants responded (e.g. “the majority had a negative impression of Company X”).
  • Create an audience profile. Once you’ve analyzed your data, collect your findings into a single document that summarizes who your audience is and what their needs are. Putting this together will help you organize your thoughts and create a coherent picture in your mind of who your audience is. [Ten]

  • The sample document at the top of this article is a good example of an audience profile.
  • If there is more than one audience for your document, you can write sections specifically pertaining to the corresponding audiences, or write in one particular style that applies across the board.

    Similarly, if there is a broad variability in the audience, cater to the majority–write to the majority of the people that will be reading the document. References to other sources with alternative information may need to be included to aid those in the minority. [Nineteen]

    Demographic characteristics of the audience can help determine the style and content of a document. Age groups, areas of residence, gender, and political preferences, for example, are all potentially significant. Paying attention to these features of the audience can also help sidestep any offensive remarks or topics that the audience would not relate to or appreciate. [20]

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