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Chapter 12. Communication Myth #6 > A Word about Mixed Audiences

A Word about Mixed Audiences

Mixed audiences may contain some members who are UNFRIENDLY, some who are NEUTRAL, or perhaps some who are UNINFORMED or even SUPPORTIVE. Very few audiences are purely NEUTRAL, or purely SUPPORTIVE, and so on. It is often not difficult to identify a “pure” audience (composed almost completely of one of the seven types we’ve discussed): the situation itself will often screen certain types of audiences out. For example, a political rally will provide an audience that is mostly ACTIVELY SUPPORTIVE, since they’ve demonstrated their active commitment by attending in the first place.

Here are Some Important Guidelines for Mixed Audiences:

First, ask yourself: which parts of the audience do you really need to influence? Are some groups numerically larger than the others? Do some groups have more power to help (or hinder) you than others? If so, focus your efforts more on these sections of your audience.For example, most politicians pay special attention, in their campaign speeches, advertisements, and fliers, to issues of interest to large blocks of voters, and to those citizens who vote regularly. This is not because infrequent voters are unimportant, or because the concerns of numerically-small groups are unimportant—it’s because politicians, as persuaders, need large groups of voters who can be counted on to vote. Success among other groups may be a moral victory, but won’t contribute to the reason for campaigning in the first place—election!

Second, where it’s possible, try to address different parts of your audience with different parts of your message. Look for ways to influence each group in your direction, even if that means having different incentives at different points in your message. For example, take a tip from advertisers, who deal with large, diverse audiences. Remember those advertisements for snack food that promise good taste to the kids, while assuring Mom that the treats are still healthy and nutritious? A commercial that can appeal to both audiences will probably be successful.

Third, never attempt to be “all things to all people.” Trying to satisfy several different sub-audiences, with competing agendas, may “turn off” all of your audience.Think about politicians again. One sure way to discredit a political candidate is to show that he or she is “saying different things to different groups.” A candidate who tells farmers today that he supports farm subsidies, and tomorrow tells suburbanites he supports lower food prices, may rightly be seen as untrustworthy in the eyes of BOTH groups. A candidate who tells blue collar workers Monday that she supports the union workers, and on Tuesday tells managers and owners that she supports big business, may end up an enemy on BOTH sides.



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