Create a Text Considering Your Stakeholders
A good communication in writing takes several considerations. The writing skills, communication style, i.e. formal or informal, the document lifecycle and your audience are among them. The most important among these considerations is to know your audience.
You have to identify your audiences in order to make your communication effective. In a more meaningful way, we can call them as your stakeholders. And this article is specifically focused on considering your stakeholders while creating a document or writing an informative or communicative content.
Your audiences, that are your stakeholders, will be different at different stages of the document creation process. Their expectations and needs will also change from one stage to the other. You will need to understand your audience and their needs according to the stage in which they will read your document.
Different stages of a document lifecycle
Basically, a communication writing or a document will generally be persuasive in nature and should be successfully conveying the message or meaning it is intended for. It can be a business document or an article or a communication document. To fulfill these criteria for a successful written communication, you have to consider its audience.
But how to make it useful for the audience?
To make it easy for you, we can divide the document lifecycle into three stages as shown below.
- Development stage
- Reading stage
- Action stage
Types of audiences at different stages
Seemingly, it may be a complex situation since an audience may not be strictly limited to one stage. From the group of audience, some may be the stakeholders of initial stage i.e. the development stage, as well as the reading stage. Some may be the audience of reading and action stage.
For example, if you are creating a project specification document, your audience in the development stage may be the technical and financial experts. So they are your stakeholders at this stage and would play an important role in creating your document. But they may also be interested in your document at the reading stage since they will be playing a contributing role in the project at a later stage. So you can say that they are the stakeholders of the final document. They will use it as a specification guide to execute their tasks in that project.
Different types of audiences at different stages of the document lifecycle are discussed and analyzed in the following paragraphs.
At this stage, you will be gathering the information, statistics, and facts from different sources. The sources of information or data can be online or offline. It can be inside or outside of your organization or academy. It can also be the individuals who will be going to get benefits from your work.
Since you will be using help from different stakeholders at this stage, you can classify them into three categories, i.e. primary author, secondary authors, and gatekeeper.
You are the primary author and will be writing a significant part of the document. You will be structuring and making the information readable and understandable. However, there will be some secondary authors who will be writing some parts of your document.
Secondary authors are technical experts and will be providing the information to you to include in the document. Apart from this, there will be the stakeholders who will be deciding and controlling the budget.
The technical and budget experts are an important part of your organization. So knowing them and understanding their needs and expectations will be very important.
There will be a gatekeeper who will keep you on track and will be monitoring what comes in and what goes out in terms of information, stats and facts. A gatekeeper will supervise you during the entire process of document creation and will help you stay focused on the most important aspects.
Analyse your stakeholders
To identify your stakeholders and gathering the information about them, you can analyze them in terms of their needs, their values, and their attitudes. You can ask questions that answer you about who, what where, when, why and how.
Depending on the need, you can do the audience analysis activity on a basic level or in-depth. You may need to meet them frequently or it may also be enough to meet once. Whatever is your approach, it should be able to help you create an efficient and user-centric document. The more you know about your audience, the more you will be able to pursue the purpose of your document.
Apart from this, you will also get more insights by analyzing how they are going to use your document. You can do this by analyzing your readers in various contexts like physical context, ethical context, political context and economic context.
Knowing the position of your stakeholders in their organization will also help you know their expectations and needs. A good analysis example can be the analysis of a team member whose role is very important in the execution of the project. Though he will be working at the lower, he will be able to give you a more technical information that a project leader or a decision maker can’t provide.
Ultimately, the purpose of doing this exercise is to understand your audience and prepare a document that justifies the purpose. You and all those active stakeholders at the development stage will be collectively called the authors.
This is the stage where the people concerned with the information in your communication will be reading your document. Like the initial or development stage, the stakeholders of this stage will also be classified into three categories i.e. primary readers, secondary readers and shadow readers.
These will be the individuals who take decisions and leads the project. There is also the point of contacts that can be considered as primary readers.
These are the technical experts and plays an important part in executing the project. So your document will be going through these readers after the primary readers.
These readers will be reading your document, but will not be directly affecting the project or process.
The audiences at this stage will be reading according to their level in the organization. For example, your project specification document will be read by the project lead first. They will understand the specifications so that they can clarify the points when asked by the team. Then it will be read by the team.
There will be shadow readers who will be performing an indirect role in the project. They will be controlling the budget at different processes and will be communicating with the actual project execution team.
At this stage, the readers, which are your stakeholders, may find it necessary to have more clarification or more detailed information. So your document may return to you and your team for further work. It means the document lifecycle will not always be following the sequence. The document may move from one stage to the next and may come back to the previous stage when required.
You will be revising the document depending on the queries and feedback you get from the stakeholders of the reading stage. There will be the readers who will also be acting as a secondary author while the document is in the development stage.
Logically, when you are revising a document, you can call it a revision stage. But that will not be taking that major efforts and time you needed at the development stage, it is not considered as a subject of the discussion.
There will be several stakeholders in the action stage depending on the targeted audience, types of demographics, and the people who will be directly or indirectly experiencing the results of your work.
The readers or the audience at this stage will be a part of the group of people whose lives will be influenced by the decision taken based on the information you provide in your document. The actions taken based on the decision by the decision makers will decide the extent of influence and effect on stakeholders.
As mentioned earlier in this article, the people who are a part of a stage may also be a part of another stage. For example, the audience in the reading stage may also be in the action stage. They may be the project leaders, technical experts, and budget experts. They will be acting as a primary author, primary readers and action takers. They will also be a part of the group who will get affected by certain decisions.
In summary, to create a document or a written communication that keeps your audience in the center, you have to understand them well. A good document will go through the stages back and forth by asking the feedback from the stakeholders of different stages and revising the document accordingly.
You also have to ensure that it either affects them positively or strongly and effectively conveys the purpose and reason if a decision is not as per their expectations. So you should be communicating and cooperating with all concerned stakeholders at all three stages.
We hope this article will help you understand and properly consider your audience in creating a document.