Why Analyze Your Audience?

Have you ever been assigned an essay and thought to yourself, “I’m just going to write what my professor wants to hear because she’s the only one who’s going to read this, and my only goal is to get a good grade.” I know I’m guilty of having thought this before!

audienceIn academia, audience analysis is the most forgotten step in the writing process. It’s easy to overlook because, in the end, your professor usually is the only audience member. However, writing in the real world will not be that simple. No matter where you work or what you do, writing will always be a part of the job! Whether you’re writing an article for a non-profit’s weekly newsletter, creating a Sunday bulletin for your church, drafting an email to the staff members you supervise, or preparing a major press release for a client of your public relations firm, all these writing situations have one thing in common: a unique audience. This is why audience analysis is an integral step in any writing process.

So why is analyzing your audience so important? As a public relations major, this is a question I often ask myself as I study how to better communicate, and it applies to other fields of study as well! The first reason you should analyze your audience is because it allows you to communicate effectively. To do so, you must pick the right topic and convey that topic with appropriate diction and word choice. This cannot be done without considering your audience. Take my first two examples from above: if you’re on staff with a non-profit organization that reaches out to single mothers struggling with unplanned pregnancies, your newsletter topic and the way you convey it will look much different than if you’re on staff with a church preparing an ad in the Sunday bulletin for a young mother’s Bible study. Familiarizing yourself with things such as age, marital status, education, financial status, and other attributes of your intended audience will significantly improve the way you communicate.

The second reason you should analyze your audience is to sharpen and focus your content. Knowing your audience allows you to include relevant information not only in the body of your work but also in your introduction and conclusion. Now, take my last example from above: when writing a press release, knowing your audience (a group often called gatekeepers, or journalists, in the PR world and target market in the marketing and business worlds) is extremely important when deciding what details are included in the first few paragraphs of the release. Without knowing who the audience is, what they are looking for, and which details they need most, I am unable to grab gatekeepers’ attention, which ultimately means that my press release gets no coverage and fails to communicate. While this example is specific to the PR field, it is always important to know your audience so that you can refine and polish the content of your writing!

Now that you know why you should analyze your audience, how do you analyze them? Well, by doing exactly what I just did: asking questions! Take the three following steps when asking questions to analyze your audience:

  1. Start broad. Ask yourself: what is known about the audience? This means asking simple questions such as what is the audience’s age range? What percentage of the audience is married? And what social class does the majority of the audience fall in?
  2. Relate your audience to your writing. Ask questions like how much does the audience already know about the topic? What does the audience need to know? What level of language and content will the audience be able to understand? The answers to these questions can often be found by asking: what is the audience’s general level of education? And what are their professions?
  3. Gauge the audience’s anticipated response to your writing. This includes questions such as what is the audience’s view on the topic? And will the audience agree, disagree, or remain neutral? Question the audiences’ general race/ethnicity, gender, social class, religion/values, lifestyle, and cultural background to answer these types of questions.

In any writing situation, these are just a few of the questions you can ask and attributes you can examine when attempting to get familiar with your audience. Analyzing your audience at the university level can be tricky and seem like a waste of time when only one person is likely to read your essay, but getting in the mindset of real-world writing and practicing analyzing a hypothetical audience will ultimately benefit you in whatever career path you choose!

Written by Meredith

For more information on audience analysis and other writing subjects, check out our Audience Analysis handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

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DBU is Home: A Godly Experience

“I don’t want to just pick a school, I want something more… an experience.” I’d been saying that since I first made my list of colleges to tour, but it was important to say it once more while flipping through the list of colleges on my ‘to tour’ list.

“It’s only the first tour, let’s just see what they have to offer,’ my mother chirped as we chapeldrove to the Dallas Baptist University campus of Dallas.

“Wow! Look at this campus. It’s beautiful,” my mother said, facing the chapel with its steeple reaching the Heavens and the view of crisp blue waters engulfing its backside. Astonished by the beauty and calmness of the campus, I found myself easily distracted from the patriot preview guide; I could barely manage to keep up with the group. Throughout the course of the tour, campus wanderers offered big smiles and courtesy like I had not seen in quite some time. When inquiring about my aspirations and interests, faculty and staff seemed genuinely intrigued. Enveloped in amazement after only a couple of hours, I’d felt a sense of community exceeding that which I’d known my whole life. By now, I was already pretty excited about the possibility of being surrounded by a community of caring and loving people, but what came next sealed the deal with DBU.

After touring all the hangout hubs, study spots, and intimate classrooms, we attended a chapel session. Inside the beautiful building, inspired by the First Baptist Church of America, were the ceiling and walls decorated with encouraging verses. An elegant stained glass image of Jesus praying to God stood above the pulpit and adorned the gigantic sanctuary, and near it stood a student praise team that sang with conviction. After the songs, a prophetic message was given by a faculty member that moved the crowd to their feet.

It is easy to see that God is present on this campus, and He has filled the hearts of those He called to be at DBU. I realized that here, I have been given the freedom to praise God openly and granted the opportunity to do so with a community of other Believers who like me, not only sought a college degree but an experience- a Godly experience. Overwhelmed and amazed by the Holy Spirit and with joy in my heart, I claimed Dallas Baptist University as my home.

Written by Ashley

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Topic vs. Thesis: A Tale of Two Cokes

If you’re Texas born and raised, you’ve probably noticed that people who live in Not Texas tend to say some funky stuff. My favorite is the use of the word “soda,” or even coke_smallbetter, the laughable “pop.” In Texas, we like to keep things interesting and use “coke” to refer to literally any carbonated soft drink on the market. It’s a simple concept, but for my proud Yankee readers*, here’s an explanation:

Texan 1: We’re going to Sonic, y’all want a coke?

Texan 2: Sure, get me a Dr. Pepper.

Texan 3: Yeah, I want a cherry Coke.

Texan 4: I’ll take a Sprite.

Texan 1: Speeds off in a Chevy Silverado Texas Edition with Jason Aldean** blasting through the speakers

Cut scene

See? Simple. In Texanese, “coke” is just a generalized category that umbrellas dozens of beverages. Just as “Mexican food” and “rom-com” and “soda” are unspecified generic topics, so is the word “coke” in Texas.

Understanding the difference between a topic and a thesis can be just as easy if you realize the coke is like your topic, and your thesis is all the other individual drinks it represents. The topic of a paper is usually pretty darned generic, and it is often what is given to you by your professor. It’s the thing on the syllabus that makes you think, “That’s way too broad of an assignment. I still don’t know what to write about!” Here are some examples:

  1. An argument paper about making college free for everyone.
  2. A research paper on the leadership of the Founding Fathers
  3. A compare and contrast essay of the ancient Hebrews and pagan religions.

These are topics, the coke of the writing world. Theses, on the other hand, are born from within topics, but they are much more specific because they include a stance on the topic, as well as basic support for the stance. Some examples might be:

  1. Although the idea of tuition-free college sounds appealing to many, universal post-secondary education is dangerous to the quality of university education, the health of the economy, and the careers of future graduates.
  2. Thomas Paine and George Washington had vastly different roles in the American Revolution, but their similar transformational leadership styles encouraged and equipped Americans to achieve victory in independence.
  3. The ancient Hebrews and pagans shared similar proverbs and cultural tales, but the two groups differ greatly on their theology of God and humanity and practices for worship.

Now you’ve transitioned from generic coke to Dr. Pepper, Orange Fanta, Diet Sprite, and whatever else the kids are drinking these days. The original topics pointed in a general direction, but the theses that evolved from them are highly specific.

As you prepare for the semester ahead and struggle to get back in the academic swing of things, remember that the difference between a topic and a thesis is as simple as knowing that, in Texas, when somebody asks if you want a coke, you better tell them what kind of coke you want. Otherwise, they’ll probably bring you a Dr. Pepper because this ain’t New England, y’all.

* No Yankees were offended in the making of this blog. My dad and my fiancé are both from Not Texas, and I love ‘em both.

** I’m not as blatantly Texan as I appear. I had to Google “famous country singer” because I had no idea.

Written by Savanna

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Radical Christianity

Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream. The title of the book alone steps on so many toes, and the pages ahead only get more painful and uncomfortable. David Platt is the author of the book and is the current senior pastor of McLean Bible Church located in the Washington, DC metro area. He has also previously served as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board. radicalFurthermore, he has and still is one of the great heroes of the faith; I am convicted, encouraged, and challenged by his messages. I heard so much about this particular book that I had to get my hands on it to see what all the buzz was about. I was not at all prepared for what I was about to read.

Radical does not waste its time introducing the subject of Christianity or the American dream. Instead, it dives straight to scrutinizing and inspecting Western Christianity. The author does this mainly by using Scripture but also by laying out his experience as a missionary in several countries around the world. The contrast is evident and hard to swallow at times when it comes to how oversees believers practice their faith, how they go about completing the Great Commission, and how they see Christ himself.

One of the stories he shares in the book that left a lasting impression on my life as a Christian was about what occurred during his time in China. After spending some time fellowshipping with the believers there, he went on to get some rest. As he tried to slip into slumber, he heard wailing, crying, and murmuring. In the pitch dark, the Chinese believers were gathered in prayer. David leaned in and asked one of them what on earth was happening and the response was that they loved and cared for American/Western believers so much that they were praying for God to strengthen them in their faith and help them persevere. The idea that a group of Chinese believers who have to meet in secret, despite possible danger, intercede on our behalf both warmed and stung my heart. They truly see us as their brothers and sisters, but I also fear that they know, in our comfort, in our cushioned chairs and our colorful stage lights, we’ve started to become too comfortable with the way that we live and have neglected the task at hand.

Platt stresses that the Gospel the Bible preaches is different from the one preached by the American dream. The life we settle for and the earthly things that we desire do not align with the word of God. Furthermore, Radical illustrates that there is a great need in the mission field, because so many are without Christ. If we truly are crazy enough to believe the claims of Christ, then we ought to live like it. We have to realize that denying ourselves daily and radically following Christ means to risk it all to go into all the nations and preach the Gospel.

The central message of the entire book can be summarized by the following quote:

The modern-day gospel says, ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved.’ Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, ‘You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do. (David Platt, Radical)

The church has been plagued by the prosperity Gospel for too long. It has ignored the true Gospel and sought the wealth, health, and comfort this world offers. God has been reduced to a genie who will attend to our wishes and commands as we see fit. We live life thinking that fulfillment is found in the degrees we accumulate, the jobs we secure, the estates we oversee, and the cars we own, yet nothing drains us more. We have made the Gospel about ourselves and our needs when the Gospel was never about us but the grace of God. Platt pleads the same truth to his audience and warns that we will not be able to stand or give an answer to the Lord when the day comes.

The book not only talks about the true calling of the Christian life, but it also points the reader to the plight of so many people around the world, while we indulge in materialism, consumerism, and the self-centered Gospel that seeks to get a hold of the next best thing for fulfillment. The Bible teaches us compassion and selfless giving; if we were to make small changes in our lives, maybe miss out on the newest iPhone and buy a lunch for the homeless around our community, it would open up the door to a greater change in our lives and the people around us. Taking small radical steps for the sake of God and others will eventually lead to a completely radical life altogether.

Reading this book was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life. Not that the truth found in it was somehow hidden or that it could answer all my questions, instead, it simply pointed out the flaws in my philosophy, everything I thought my faith in Christ looked like and turned it up-side-down. It has radically changed the way that I thought I was going to live out my life, and I am forever thankful to the author for that change. Getting the chance to hear Platt speak at Hillcrest Baptist Church only amplified the message of his book for me.

At the end of the event, I spoke with him and told him about how I’ve decided to change all my plans in full surrender to the Lord and the great impact that he has on the younger generation. The excitement and joy he got from hearing about how he has helped change our lives was barely masked by the utter exhaustion the speech and conversations with countless other people had caused.

Risking everything for the sake of the Gospel and denying ourselves the pleasure that this world offers is not an easy thing to do. When we know that his grace is sufficient, however, the yoke does become easy and the burden light, and my absolute favorite quote from the book echoes the same message:

Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us. (David Platt, 98)

Written by Kenean

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