Persuasive Writing for Activists: Knowing Your Audience

This blog post is part of a series on persuasive writing for activists. Check back weekly for new content.

Last week we talked about the purpose:  what you’re trying to accomplish with your piece of persuasive writing. This week we’ll talk about who you’re writing it for. 

Getting to Know Your Audience

Many activists are so dedicated to the issue they care about that they forget that their audience might not be. Here are five important facts about your audience. 

  1. They are probably too busy to read your piece from start to finish. 
  2. They might not know little or nothing about the issue. 
  3. They might not know the jargon. 
  4. They might be skeptical of activists. 
  5. Despite all that, they might care deeply about the issue and want to act! 

Consider the Demographics 

I’m a white woman who is relatively well off and has a bit of free time, which is why I can write and do activism. If I’m not careful, I imagine my audience is too. They’re not. Think about people’s racial heritage, sexual orientation, religion, age, ability/disability, age, occupation, and financial situations.They’re all different! Different people will have different perspectives and care about different aspects of the issue. 

You Have Multiple Audiences 

Bear in mind that you have multiple audiences. Some know a lot about the issue and some know next to nothing. Some like activists and some don’t. Some share your racial heritage and some don’t. 

Go Meet Them 

Get to know your audience. Get out and talk to people about your issue. But don’t lecture. Listen more than you talk. I am surprised every single time I talk to people, and I learn a lot. I learn what people care about and what people don’t. I learn the language they use. I learn how not to act like an activist geek. I learn what they know and don’t know. 

Stay tuned: Next week we’ll talk about targeting your piece to your audience.

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