We live in a diverse world made up of different ethnicities, religions, traditions, interests and preferences. So, how do we tailor our messaging to appeal to a diverse audience in the business world? Whether communicating globally, or even one localized audience with diverse backgrounds, we have to be cognizant of our audience members. Because of the diversity of our world, it is impossible to please everyone and one size definitely does not fit all. However, there are ways that writers can develop their communications to better appeal to the majority of our diverse audience.
The first thing writers need to understand about communicating cross-globally is the concept of globalization. As Doreen Startke-Meyerring describes it, “Globalization… is the web of contacts, impacts, and connections now engulfing the basic institutions of the world in virtually every dimension of activity: demographic, economic, technological, environmental and political”. Our points of contact with anyone else outside of our background can be considered an aspect of globalization. Globalization goes beyond geographical land. It involves the interconnectedness we have with a diverse group of people all around the world. It also includes an interchange of world views, a sharing of cultural elements, and a social responsibility.
In order to maintain our integrity and credibility, we need to follow some guidelines to ensure that we communicate our messages effectively to our audience. Below are a few tips to keep in mind when writing for diverse audiences. These tips are not exclusive to diverse audiences but are also practical skills that can help writers develop their skills to obtain and maintain their audience’s attentions.
- Use clear, concise language. Because of the diversity of cultural differences, it is important to refrain from making your sentences overly complex. To ensure that people of all different educational and cultural backgrounds understand what we are trying to convey, we must keep our language simple and understandable. The more complex our language is, the more likely we are to lose our audience’s attention. This doesn’t mean we have to oversimplify, but we do need to make sure that our language isn’t ambiguous or overly wordy.
- Incorporate ethical principles. When writing to a culturally diverse audience, it is important to make sure you are providing accurate information and eliminating cultural bias. Whatever your topic is, you need to keep in mind that your audience comes from all different backgrounds and you never want to exclude or disregard someone’s background or viewpoint. According to Stephen J.A. Ward, “A responsible global ethic is needed in a world where news media bring together a plurality of different religions, traditions, and ethnic groups”.
- Avoid cultural specific language. Whenever you are writing for a diverse group of people you never want to use language that references terms or phrases that are specific to a certain culture. For example, if your audience includes Americans as well as Europeans, you would definitely want to avoid baseball references like “hit one out of the park” or “three strikes you’re out”. These references would be understood by your American audience members but the European audience members may not be well versed in American baseball. Not only would the meaning get lost, you will lose your reader.
- Know your audience and do your research. Along the same lines of using culturally specific language, you want to learn as much as you can about your audience members and their culture. What may mean something in your country, may have a completely different meaning in another. This applies also to your own local communities. What may mean something to your organization, for example a logo or a symbol, that same image could mean something completely different to someone of the same culture. Symbols, images, even colors can have different meanings globally and in order to ensure that you aren’t losing your audience, you must do your research before putting your message out there.
- Build the overall communication skills of your organization. We are taught at an early age to speak and write. However, that does not make an expert on communication. We could all benefit from communication training. Even skilled communicators could gain from training to more effectively utilize their skills to appeal to a global audience. According to Deborah Cameron, learning communication skills is not just for individuals who speak English as a second language. She states that “Forms of instruction and training which aim to develop communication skills…are increasingly common in all kinds of contemporary institutions, ranging from elementary schools to multinational corporations”. The practice of building communication skills throughout organizations is becoming common practice and if your organization doesn’t get on board, other organizations will.