Different types of audiences

Think about how you will address different types of audiences in your content.

This section covers:

General and specialised audiences

Most content is intended for several audiences (eg experts as well as general readers, teachers as well as students, health professionals as well as health administrators). 

Communicating information to any audience calls for judgment on what they will want or need to know. This affects the amount and technical level of the information you present, as well as the way you pitch the information.

When you write for general and specialised audiences separately, you can pitch the text to the appropriate level (ie less technical for the general public, more technical for the experts):

If you are writing information about the government’s immunisation programs:

  • content for health professionals might include demographic information about the take-up of vaccines, and details about vaccine effectiveness and vaccine side effects

  • content for parents might be the ages at which their children should have each type of vaccination, the diseases that vaccines protect against and why vaccination is important.

In contrast, when both general and specialised audiences will read the same text, it is challenging to write for their different priorities, as well as for the different reading skill levels in the community, and for the special access needs of some readers. A 2-step process will help to ensure that you meet all the needs of your audiences:

  1. Ensure that the information needs of all your audiences are met.
  2. Consider how to present information in a way that will engage all your audiences. Options include
    • layering’ the same information in different formats within the same piece of text (eg including a summary box at the start of a chapter or webpage, and more detailed information further down)
    • developing separate documents (eg a fact sheet for the general public and a more detailed report for researchers)
    • developing separate online pathways (eg labelling online content as ‘For patients’ and ‘For practitioners’).
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Audiences with special needs

Some members of your audience may have special needs. It is important to write and design accessible content to meet these needs.

This is especially important for any content that is designed for the general public. The Australian Government now requires all online government content to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 (see Accessibility guidelines for more information).

Special needs (and corresponding options) to consider during content development include:

  • visual impairments (eg limited eyesight, tunnel vision, colourblindness); consider
    • enlarging the text
    • ensuring that colour graphs have sufficient contrast between colours
    • following best practice for laying out tables (eg no empty cells)
    • ensuring that text can be read by a screen reader
    • including alt text labels for images, and audio descriptions for movies and animated material
  • aural impairments (eg severe deafness, difficulty with hearing in certain contexts); consider
    • using visual signs for spoken cues
    • captioning voice-overs and dialogue in documentaries and movies
  • cognitive impairments (eg slow processing of visual or written material, low literacy); consider
    • making content as simple as possible
    • adjusting the speed of visual signals and computer actions
  • limited dexterity of hands or fine motor control (eg inability to respond quickly enough to standard computer prompts); consider
    • increasing the size of icons and radio buttons
    • adjusting the speed of visual signals and computer actions.
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Primary and secondary audiences

Primary audiences are those that receive content directly. Secondary audiences are those that receive the content indirectly because they hear about it or are affected by it. 

In general, you will be concentrating on the needs of your primary audiences. But it is a good idea to also consider how your secondary audiences may receive your content. For example, think about the level of knowledge and any potential biases the audience may have, and develop content to take these into account:

You are developing a fact sheet to tell health practitioners (primary audience) about vaccination. The health practitioners will use this information to both guide their practice and answer any questions from their patients (secondary audience).

In drafting content, think about what the health practitioner must know to provide the correct treatment. You can also think about the sort of questions that patients might ask about vaccine safety and efficacy, and include clear explanations that the practitioner can use.

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