Published on February 17, 2016

Understanding your audience often discussed as one of the most important steps of the communication process; however, it is often the least well practiced and understood stage as well, largely because most documents (or other forms of communication) have multiple audiences, with multiple needs. In her Strategic Communication Framework, Debbie Davy proposes a novel method for categorizing your potential audiences that may be helpful in understanding the kinds of attitudes and needs you’ll need to take advantage of as well as to overcome in planning your communication. Within an industry context, she argues, acts of communication serve to address problems – whether it be a practical problem or a lack of knowledge – which provide them with a purpose. Given the way that it addresses that problem, however, the communication will foster different attitudes that will create distinct audiences. She identifies five main types of attitudes:

  • Sponsors: leaders and those in a position of influence who support the communication.
  • Champions and Allies: those who have a vested interested in the communication’s success.
  • Early Adopters: those most likely to support the communication in the early stages.
  • Impacted: those who will be most impacted (positively or negatively) by the communication.
  • Resistant: those who will not welcome the communication.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 2.38.46 PMUnderstanding that both supporters and detractors exist can help you plan your communication strategy to, for example:

  1. Stress the aspects of the communication favoured by potential sponsors
  2. Leverage the help of early adopters in planning the communication, or
  3. Rebut the major concerns of those resistant to the communication.

This knowledge of the potential multiple attitudes of your audience will be key in the first part of a Strategic Communication Framework, pivotal for developing the communication act’s message.

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You can read more about her strategy at DK Consultants or read her paper from ProComm 2016 in Limerick at IEEE Explore.

debbiedavydkDebbie Davy is Doctoral Candidate in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University and  a Senior Member of the IEEE Professional Communication Society.  She works as a  technical communication and business analyst in Toronto, Canada as a member of the D.K. Consultants Inc. team, a niche technical communication and management consulting company.  Debbie has the Master of Science in Technical Communication Management from Mercer University and 4 awards for technical communication from the STC.  She has served as a peer reviewer of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication and many IEEE Pro Comm conferences . Contact Debbie at