How to Understand and Segment Audiences for More Successful Communication

In an earlier blog, we talked about the importance of understanding your audience, in order to develop a truly effective communication strategy. In fact, we think that this may be the most important step at all.

Understanding who you are communicating with, why, and how best to connect with them is most of the battle in communications planning. 

So, let’s take the opportunity to explore how you can understand your audience better, in order to be a powerfully persuasive communicator. 

Ethos, Pathos and Logos

Don’t worry, this isn’t turning into a Classics class, but it’s worth considering these factors as we think about how we influence an audience.

Essentially, each of these ancient Greek terms describes a form of appeal you can use to persuade your audience to think, feel or do something differently. 

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Ethos is the ethical appeal, although the name is slightly confusing. The purpose of ethos is not so much to talk about ethics, but to convince the audience of your character and credibility. It’s about establishing your authority to talk about the subject in question. A great way to do this as an internal communicator is through building strong personal relationships with your audience, or helping the leader you communicate on behalf of to do so. Relationships build trust which builds credibility. 

Pathos is the emotional appeal. The most effective communication is rooted in empathy. If you can understand your audience’s needs, wants, and pain points, you will be able to craft a communication that has powerful emotional resonance.

Logos is the appeal to logic. It’s probably what many of us do intuitively, using facts as part of a persuasive argument. Facts are important but not as effective without bringing your audience on the emotional journey as well. 

Segmenting your audience

Now that we’ve talked about getting ‘permission’ to speak to your audience and you recognize the power of combining facts and emotional appeals, let’s talk about how to apply that, using audience segmentation.

Breaking down your audiences into types, and approaching their communication needs empathetically will help your message hit the mark with each of the groups you’re communicating with. For example, in a large organization (and depending on the particular program you’re communicating about), you may have audiences such as: client-facing staff, business development, risk management and operations. 

Things to consider include what motivates them in their current roles, what annoys them (especially in relation to the problem you’re trying to solve with your messaging), what they need in order to perform in their roles, and their communication preferences. 

To organize your thoughts and plan your communication, it’s helpful to use an audience segmentation matrix. 

What does that look like? Thanks for asking. Here’s one we’ve developed just for you - feel free to download it, use it, frame it, share it with your friends. We’d just appreciate a little acknowledgment if you do pass it on. And if you find it useful, let us know - it will make us smile! 

Download audience segmentation matrix