Impact Technical Publications Target your Audience
Audiences can be complicated!

You may be writing a white paper for people with different jobs and responsibilities, different knowledge levels, and different needs.

To develop strategies to achieve your goals, you must understand your audience.

You must understand your audience in order to write an effective white paper. What you need to know about your audience varies based on your goals and subject. Here is a partial list of information you should find out about the audience for a high-tech white paper:
  • Job titles and responsibilities
  • Education, training, experience, and skills
  • Industry knowledge
  • Knowledge about the white paper's subject
  • Level of interest in the white paper's subject
  • Problems understanding the white paper's subject
  • Willingness or reluctance to agree with the white paper's conclusions

You need to explain the concepts in your white paper so that your audience can understand them. If your audience knows more than you do about a concept, you must "write up" to their knowledge level. If the audience knows less, you must "write down" to their knowledge level.

Don't assume that your readers know nothing about the concepts discussed in the white paper unless that is the conclusion of your audience analysis. Don't tell your audience what it already knows.

For example, you are writing a white paper on a new programming language, and your audience is programmers. Don't explain the meaning of global variable, source code, object code, compiler, and debugger. Programmers know those terms. They may stop reading the white paper because they think it's too basic to give them any useful information.

Go to the next tip: Avoid three classic mistakes.

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