Chapter 2 - Know your target group

Writing is communicating. The number one task before starting to write is to know who you are writing to. Who is the audience? In this chapter we suggest practical ways to ensure your writing reaches your target group.

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Before you start writing, find out who your audience is and what kind of information they need from you:

- Are you writing for a media? Ask the editors about the target group of that media and about the basic concept of the magazine/website/journal you are writing for! Who are the readers? What is the mission of the media, and how do the editors see your article in fulfilling that mission?
- Are you writing for an online forum like EPALE? Think about who might end up reading your article. Who would you like to have as a reader?
- Is there an interesting national or even local piece of news/phenomenon that caught your attention? Think of how it might be interesting for the European reader. Is it a practice that could be generalized and transplanted to other European contexts? Is it a news item that might have European consequences? Is it a national manifestation of a European/global phenomenon? Or is it so quintessentially national that it could not happen anywhere else – thus making it very interesting! 

In the European adult education context, typical target groups include:

  • adult educators i.e. teachers and pedagogues
  • other practitioners and advocates such as people working in adult education associations, umbrella organizations, NGOs and such. They may not be in direct touch with the learner but may be involved in project coordination, development and upskilling the field, advocacy and lobbying for funding etc.
  • education policy makers and civil servants on the national and EU level
  • adult learners themselves
  • adult education researchers

Identify the group you are writing to and think about what content they would benefit or even need from you. Remember that you cannot please everyone! For example:

  • Educators might be especially interested in descriptions of good didactic practices, interviews of European colleagues, interviews of European learners etc.
  • Advocates and NGO people might be especially interested in policy news, funding opportunities and project experiences.
  • Policy makers, with their scarce time, may value short news items, and concise stories about the positive effects of learning (a return on the investment into education!)
  • Adult learners are a huge target group: potentially every adult! Adult education media in Europe rarely cater for the learner but if you find yourself writing for this target group, remember that a person and his/her story are universally interesting.
  • researchers communicate through scientific journals but could well be interested in how some theory is applied in practice or how policy affects science funding. 

This list above is a very crude generalisation but it is an example of how you might go about thinking which topic suits which target group.  Remember that, regardless of target group, everybody is always interested in a good story, in another person, something that evokes emotion. (See also Chapter 5)

Build a fictional reader

One helpful way of working with target groups is to build “model readers”. This means imagining a fictitious person that has the characteristics and needs of your target reader. Do not just list some basic details about profession and gender, give this imaginary person a character so that (s)he feels like a real person! It is a good idea to come up with a model reader for every target group, or even several different ones for each group.

DFS linkMario from Bologna, Italy - example of a fictional reader

You can use a model reader also if you want to attract potential new readers. Just build a model reader to resemble the new audience you want to reach.

- It is important to get empirical data on who actually reads your content. Ask the editors if you are writing for a media! If your writing appears online, web analytic tools should give much of this information. Is the target group reached? If not, what needs to change? 

- Lastly, one final realistic target group for you to consider is the professional mainstream journalist! If you write a good, interesting article with a clear argument and a catchy title and it is published in an adult education media or perhaps in your organization’s newsfeed or as a press release, there is a chance that a journalist from a mainstream national or European media might pick up on it and possibly even follow up on it, dramatically increasing visibility for adult education. Press release writing for example, does not fundamentally differ from article writing (a press release is in fact a short article) and all of the tips we present in this booklet can be used in writing press releases too!