||The Three Foundations of Communication|
|Home : Engineering Consulting : Scientific and Technical Communication : Blog — Scientific Seen|
|Message, Audience, and Purpose|
|At the top level, the definitions of message, audience, and purpose seem almost inanely obvious:
Let's say you're trying to communicate a scientific advance. You've just developed a method to stimulate and direct growth of neural stem cells with the potential to help patients recover from traumatic brain injury. You want to describe your advance at its current stage — an in vitro demonstration, successful implementation in an animal model, clinical tests on a first patient, or whatever that stage may be.
How are you going to describe your work?
Obviously, the depth and detail of the description will depend on who you're trying to reach. Are you writing for other specialists? For graduate students? For the general public? For schoolchildren?
You must adjust your tone, your structure, and your vocabulary to match the level of the audience. But your work isn't done. You have to consider where your audience is, but you also must know where you want them to get. That's your purpose.
Consider, for example, an audience of specialists. You may want to encourage them to consider collaborating with you, you may want to lay the groundwork for future grant proposals, you may want to attract potential funding organizations, or just generally enhance the reputation of your lab, or some combination of all of those.
But what if your audience is the general public? Are you trying to encourage general interest and increase your presence in the news media? Do you want to build political support for your efforts? Are you trying to promote a broad level of interest and support for science, or for your lab in particular?
An important note here. As you consider your audience, you will, of necessity, be answering their first question: "Why should I care?"
Now consider the case of a technological advance. That is, you have a product. Let's say it's a lighting system that has good clinical support for use to improve the length and quality of sleep. Your message, once again, is fairly straightforward: you are going to describe what your system is and what it does.
But who are you writing for? Experts? Potential investors? The general public?
And what's your purpose? Build support among medical professionals for recommending your system? Convince investors you have a unique and valuable product? Encourage individual consumers to buy your product, or prompt wholesalers or retailers to stock your product?
Whatever your answers to these questions, and whatever medium you're using to communicate, you must always consider all three elements as you're producing your material. If you fail to keep your audience and your purpose in mind while formulating your message, you will neither reach your audience nor achieve your purpose.
There. Now you have the key elements to keep in mind while writing anything, and if you work on it, they will become second nature. Or, you can remain focussed on your science and technology, and let us do the writing for you.