by Rita Goldner
We authors often discuss at marketing meetings how important it is to have a specific target, an actual person’s profile in mind when writing marketing copy, designing ads, and posting on social media sites. This target usually corresponds to our reader’s profile (except in the case of children’s book authors, whose marketing target is the adult who buys the books for our young audience). I’m learning that having a specific target in any form of communication is vital to the successful delivery of a message, whether it be marketing, creative writing, or even a simple conversation. After a boatload of presentations, and trial/error at schools, book signings, and fairs, I’ve come up with a few observations:
- The recipient of the communication, not the deliverer, gets to decide if it’s interesting, funny, or relevant.
- If the listener doesn’t “get it,” it’s not because they’re obtuse or dense; it’s because the information wasn’t presented correctly.
- If the audience misinterprets, has their feelings hurt, or becomes offended, it’s almost always the fault of the speaker/writer. (If they deliberately intended to offend, then I guess they were successful.)
- A good speaker has to be agile enough to sense changes in mood, distractions for the audience, and their surroundings. (For example, you thought the audience would have chairs and they’re standing; or you thought you’d be indoors and you’re outdoors.) This requires an abrupt change in the delivery, and even the content.
In regard to my first observation, I’ve heard people say “Wait ‘til I tell you this funny joke” or “I have something important to tell you.” I recently received an advertisement email that said in the subject line “from a trusted source.” In all three examples, shouldn’t I be the judge of that?
In the second observation, I’ve heard people say “He’s too sensitive” or “He took it wrong” or “I was only kidding – he has no sense of humor.” In all of these instances, the onus is on the speaker to present better.
My third observation reminds me of a recent presentation I made at Reid Park Zoo in Tucson. My hosts were wonderful and accommodating, but told me they hadn’t tried this storytelling model before, and I was their “guinea pig.” Fortunately I’ve learned to be flexible, especially with kids, so I welcomed the challenge. I had planned a reading from my orangutan picture book, which I’ve timed at 7-10 minutes. But I was flanked by a live iguana on one side and a python on the other side, which the kids were welcome to touch, handle, and ask the rangers questions about during my presentation. I was fine with this setup, as I heartily applaud any wildlife and conservation education for kids. But I knew Plan A wouldn’t work, so I shifted to Plan B, which was a conversational style, asking and answering questions. Ironically, in a few instances a parent came over, asked questions, and bought the book while their child was occupied with something else and didn’t even know. I also signed up subscribers for my newsletter Orangutans and More! (subscribe below), and hurriedly handed out free coloring pages as the families drifted away.
As a concluding example of targeted communication, I’ll use a wonderful book I’m reading. (I guess YOU’LL be the judge of that, if you choose to read it!) It’s Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D.Vance. The author grew up in severe poverty as a self-proclaimed hillbilly in the Appalachian Mountains. He escaped his destiny, joined the Marines, and later graduated from Yale Law School. Consequently, his readers range from very well educated people to hillbillies. With such a wide spectrum, he uses a clear, straightforward, and simple vocabulary that appeals to both extremes. A tough balancing act, but he pulls it off expertly. That’s my goal as author and speaker.
Rita Goldner is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series. For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit OrangutanDay.com. Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. To view additional illustrations and other books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook.