Impact Technical Publications Never make assumptions about audience knowledge of subject

Myth 3

A corollary to this myth is: write for audiences who know nothing about the subjects of white papers. On the contrary, writers should analyze audiences in detail.

We understand the origin this myth: too many white papers assume that their audiences understand their subjects in the same detail that technical specialists do. If the audience is business executives, that assumption is misplaced. But business executives may have extensive technical knowledge. We won't know unless we analyze them.

Writers who proclaim that assumptions should never be made about audience knowledge usually assume quite a bit about business executives. They assume that business executives know what ROI is, what a CTO is, what B2B means, and so on. Business executives do know those things. But what else do business executives know? And who else is in the audience? What do they know?

An argument for writing to the level of a know-nothing audience is that the audience may include members that writers or organizations do not anticipate. If writers do not analyze the audience, most likely the audience will include unanticipated members. If organizations don't know their target markets, the marketing and sales departments have some underachievers, to put it mildly.

Certainly, the appeal of a white paper on a subject of general interest may extend beyond the target audience. If that happens, analyze the new audience, and if necessary revise the white paper or write a new one for the new audience. How do you know which alternative is best? Examine the white paper's role in the sales process.

Go to the next myth: To sell drills, talk about holes.


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