Who is my audience?

Technical Writing is what I like to do. Many people do not understand what I do, but I found this really neat image describing it.

technical writer2

http://idratherbewriting.com/2012/03/02/technical-communication-metrics-what-should-you-track/

What does this image have to do with this weeks reading? Not much I just wanted to show this neat graphic.

This week the topic was audience. Who is our audience and how to we make sure that we are writing to this audience. I started my job at Sansio in 2002. In 2004 I started working in our Solution Center (Call Center), by 2005 I was working with the in house trainer and maintaining the training powerpoint. Throughout my use of the powerpoint and through my stint as Implementation Coordinator, this one powerpoint turned into 3 with an average of 300 slides a piece.In addition, the training manager had me create checklists to support the learning. The maintenance of these materials was very time consuming, but still was not the main portion of my job. When I was promoted to QA Specialist in 2007 training was changed to be online training and the Business Analysts who took over training no longer used the PowerPoint. At that time I no longer did technical writing. It wasn’t until I took my Technical Writing Practiuum in 2010 that I started writing. My supervisor found that I was good at it and I have been creating/updating User Guide Pages, creating Release Notes and updating other user materials.

AUDIENCE

Its always important to understand our audience. I have special knowledge of our audience because of my experience with our Solution Center and as Implementation Coordinator. I spent years talking to customers during and after their initial training of HomeSolutions. The image below gives a nice description of what I should be thinking about what I start my writing.

Conduct-Audience-Analysis-Step-3

http://www.wikihow.com/Conduct-Audience-Analysis

Analysis – HomeSolutions Users

Understanding – When I write, I assume the person has a basic knowledge of HomeSolutions and the terms that we use.

Demographics – Most HomeSolutions users are women around 40 and most do not have a formal degree. There is the occasional user who is a nurse with an advanced degree.

Interest – They are reading the document because they want to know how to use a specific piece of the product.

Environment – The document will be viewed in the users office, most likely online within the application.

Needs – They need to know how to use a piece of the application

Customization – Needs may be to provide an overall description of the page/features that they will be accessing.

Expectations – The ability to use the piece/feature in the future without having to reference the educational resource again.

When it comes to the other product I write for, RevNet, I take a little different approach. The RevNet product is new to everyone. The product has only been around for a little over a year, so everyone who uses this product is brand new. I spend more time on this product line documenting definitions of words and places within the application.

I sometimes worry that I am not writing to the exact needs of the audience. We do not get a lot of feedback on our writing, even by internal customers, and I have not been able to find the time to make sure I get usability testing done to make sure. One thing that would probably help would be creating a persona. A Persona is a very detailed description, including name, age and picture, of a person who will be using the resource being created. In Spilka’s book, Chapter 8 Addressing Audiences in a Digital Age by Ann M Blakeslee they also describe using the persona with the development staff so that they have a better understanding of who they are developing for. One reason I may not do a persona is that I feel I have a very good understanding of our audience because of my experience with our customers in the Solution Center.

How important are personas to writing for an audience? Do I really need to do them, since I have first hand experience with them in the past?

Posted on November 10, 2013, in Workplace and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I enjoyed your post and your personal experience with how you approach different audiences with specific purpose. I like your AUDIENCE mnemonic image, and I will be taking that with me whenever I think about presenting to an audience in any format.

    I also found I could really relate to what you said here: **I sometimes worry that I am not writing to the exact needs of the audience. We do not get a lot of feedback on our writing, even by internal customers, and I have not been able to find the time to make sure I get usability testing done to make sure.**

    Many times, I feel that same sense of worry and without adequate feedback, there is nothing to alleviate the worry. Do you have anyone in a supervisory capacity who ever offers you feedback? However, the feedback you seek might serve you better if it did indeed come from customers.

    • My supervisor does review the release notes and other items, however he is mostly looking for spelling and grammar errors, but not for content. Usually if one of our BAs (Business Analysts) get time they usually end up just finding those types of things too. I expect people to find things with the content, but just don’t get that feedback.

  2. LOVE all your images!

    I think you primarily create personas when addressing a new audience or when you’re having issues addressing an existing audience but with a new message…the latter sounds like it might be what you’re experiencing?

    So, to me, it sounds like you’re ahead of the game as you already know your audience quite well. However, you aren’t 100% sure if you’re addressing their needs. I would go back to the beginning – why did your company develop the new RevNet product to begin with? There must have been an unmet need – what was that need? How do you communicate to your audience that this product fills that need?

    As far as usability testing goes, my company is very bad at doing official methods for collecting data and what I’ve found works best is just asking customers directly when I have them on the phone or am emailing with them. Do you have a lot of direct contact with customers?

    Or, maybe lookat how you can fit usability methods into your existing process…how are your support materials delivered? Are they web-based? If so, is there a way that you could build in a brief survey or feedback form that would pop up at the end of the tutorial/guide?

    By the way, here’s an article that I found that talks about creating a persona:

    http://techwhirl.com/personas-and-the-five-ws-developing-content-that-meets-reader-needs-pt-1/

  3. I think last Fall a number of students wrote about the personas idea. I’ll try and look for those papers to see if this is a topic you might want to pursue, e.g. with the writing you’re doing for RevNet.
    Also, can you tell me more about HomeSolutions Users? I wasn’t sure why that was chosen for the audience analysis.

    • The HomeSolutions users were the ones I used during the AUDIENCE review. These are usually women in their 30s to 40s that seem to not really uses web-based applications. I probably didn’t use them because they are the ones I have the most contact and knowledge about.,

  4. Hi:

    I love your technical writer graphic.

    I went to your web page to try to learn more about your company because I was interested in how you know so exactly about the age and educational preparation. Are your users people working in a medical field who might consult your software for medical care issues? I was a little unclear about that.

    By the way, I roamed your website quite a bit. It looks like a “fun” creative place to work — is it?

    • Maybe you better not answer my last question. Don’t want to put you in an awkward position.

    • Sansio create Software as a Service products for Home Health Agencies and EMT/Paramedic. The help the organizations manage their business. It’s not really a medical software, but we do store and report on the medical information included.

      I love where I work. its a great place. I’ve been there for 12 years and can’t wait to see where we go next.

  5. I love that image! I’ve seen it before, and I remember the first time I was like SO TRUE!! 🙂

    I think that personas are important to writing for an audience, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I think it helps to picture the person you’re right for. I think that when we can “see” the person we’re writing for it makes a connection. I think about how I work with people in different locations…once I meet them they’re a “real” person and I find I know a bit about their personality so I can communicate with them better. I think the same thing applies to personas.

    If you already have first hand experience maybe it’s not necessary, but it probably can’t hurt the process. And if you have that experience, creating the persona shouldn’t take that long.

  6. Thanks for sharing your ideas! I love your image! I honestly think any job could make one for any type of job (I have seen the same type of image for military personnel) and it would be humorous!

    I like your idea of writing with a fictitious person in mind. I think if you consider your audience in general, you could come up with a great persona. However, I think it may affect your writing (either positively or negatively) to only keep one person in mind. For example, what if your persona is a male? You may be inclined to stick to the facts, whereas if your persona was a woman, you may want to put more details. I think you can do it, but you must be very careful to remain “neutral.”

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