Jules is a friend and colleague; she volunteers her time and energy to run FirstSigns with me, and it’s great to have her perspectives on writing and communication here at kilobox communiqué.
When writing, how many of the people do you need to please?
When it comes to writing my personal blog, I don’t much care whether people like what I write. My blog is my own space and full of the often insane ponderings of my mind – those who dare enter know they could be faced with the darkest secrets of my soul, or a humorous piece on the disappearance of partly used pencils. If I’m particularly proud of the latter I may import it on Facebook in the hope of a friendly comment, but I’m not overly worried either way.
The majority of my writing, however, is done for FirstSigns, Wedge’s Voluntary Organisation, and I take that writing a lot more seriously.
They (whoever ‘they’ are) say it’s impossible to please all of the people, all of the time, and that we should settle for pleasing just some of them occasionally. Well at FirstSigns, we aim to please everyone as much as possible, and when you consider our readers range from 13 year old schoolboys to mature, professional doctors, that poses quite a challenge.
Of course some of my writing is aimed at a specific audience; the factsheets we produce for example. By their nature, they have to target a specific readership, so to keep everyone happy we ensure that we produce a range of factsheets to fulfil the needs of all our members.
However, when it comes to writing for our newsletter / magazine, we have to consider our variety of readers as a whole. The newsletter has thousands of subscribers, so it’s probably safe to say we can never please all of them with any one article, but we do ensure we reach out to every reader in some way throughout each edition.
This means we have to plan ahead, and Wedge and I are already planning the next year or two’s editions. It’s not just a question of bashing out a few articles for each one, we have to carefully consider each edition’s main themes and ensure every single reader will be touched by at least one theme. In addition, we must bear in mind that most articles will be read by most people, whether aimed at them or not, so the writing style must appeal to, and be easily understood by both the 13 year old boy and the professional doctor. And all without patronising anyone!
So, by adopting an embracing attitude that cares about all our members’ needs, and by being versatile and forward thinking, we endeavour to please all of our people all of the time.
I’m lucky in my work for FirstSigns that I have a professional writer and editor at my disposal, to oversee my work and ensure I stay on track, and I trust his knowledge implicitly; but Wedge also gives me a great deal of freedom when it comes to my writing and has a confidence in me that allows my own creativity to blossom.
I’m not so confident when it comes to outside work and pleasing an unknown audience. I’m currently writing a book review for a professional magazine, and the strict regulations and pressures to conform to a specific style of writing scare me. I’m unsure whether I’ll please even the editor, let alone all of the people who read the magazine, but I’ll do my best to please as many as possible, and on this occasion I’ll be happy if I just please some of the people, some of time.
About the author
Jules runs the largest eraser emporium in the world (AFAIK) and you can find out more at originalerasers.co.uk
Jules also runs FirstSigns with me, and is a keen writer with an eye for detail like an electron microscope.
Good to read your post Jules. I wouldn’t worry too much about editors and stuff. Yes, you have to adhere to their guidelines but in my experience, freelance journalists often over work. Well, you have to if you want to keep the money coming in, but editors are just as disposable as writers (unfortunately). Whilst some might think of writing as a craft, it’s very much a commodity to chop and change as the editor sees fit. I think I’d be quite rich by now if I had a couple of kronor for every time an article I’ve written has been sculpted by an editor to resemble something completely different.
Good luck with your writing.
It’s great to have our first Guest Writer (you’re invited too: http://kilobox.net/609/ ) and I always want to encourage Jules to write more frequently and get published more if that would please and benefit her.
Thank you for your kind comments. I feel honoured to have been published here as the first guest writer , so thank you.
My journalism professor used to say, “If you don’t aim at SOMEONE, you’re going to hit NO ONE. Know your audience.”
But, as you point out, even when you KNOW your audience, it can be a real challenge to provide content that is meaningful to such a diverse group.
Like you, I write my personal blog mostly for me. It’s meandering and unfocused and has identity issues.
But, in my professional writing, I am constantly thinking about my audience and their varied needs. It affects not only content, but also tone and method.
It sounds like you are very passionate about reaching out to YOUR diverse audience. And that, i think, is even more important than the technical side of things. If you really care about serving your WHOLE audience, you’re half-way there.
(I did try to pull up your latest newsletter, btw. Ran into technical difficulties.)
Thanks again for the post. :)
Thank you zenmon, and it’s good to hear about your own experiences. I am very passionate about the work Wedge and I do, but it’s certainly not always easy.
I love your blog; I’ve only recently started reading it, but its certainly one to follow :)
I hope to see a guest post from you here one day too!