05 Jul

Horoscopes: a lesson about audience(s)

Horoscopes are the work of genius.
I genuinely mean that.

I don’t believe in them in the slightest, but the way in which they’re written – to reiterate… genius.

Each horoscope says so much… yet says nothing at all.
Each horoscope speaks to anyone… or no-one.

Check out my horoscope for today:

Aquarius copy

It’s supposed to speak to me, given that my birthday is between 21st January and 19th February, but it could be speaking to just about anyone.

‘You could adopt a wait-and-see attitude, but taking a proactive role might bring better results’ could easily apply to me, in relation to:

– Waiting to hear back about upcoming contract work, or being ‘proactive’ and calling the prospective client

– Waiting to see if my garden fence holds, having propped it up with concrete blocks and string, or being ‘proactive’ and getting back to one of the people who’s given me a quote to fix it

– Waiting to see if my cat will actually get fleas this summer, or being ‘proactive’ and putting flea treatment on his neck… while trying to avoid having my hands shredded.

However, that line in my horoscope could apply to just about anyone, in any situation, anywhere in the world – regardless of which month they were born in.

Or it could mean nothing at all – it could apply to no-one.

This is what I mean when I say horoscopes are the work of genius: it takes real skill to write something that could mean so much, yet also means so little.

But while this skill is to be admired in relation to horoscopes, it’s to be avoided, at all costs, in any other copy or content.

Whether you’re a business, charity, NGO, public sector body, or agency (or anyone I’ve missed out), ‘anyone’ is not an audience.
Or rather – ‘anyone but no-one’ is not an audience.

If you’re selling a product, service, or event; getting people to donate, raise funds, or volunteer; looking to secure certain clients… ‘anyone’ is not someone you can speak to.

You have to pick one audience – vets, bankers, church-goers, solicitors, healthcare professionals [insert any other audience] – and speak to them directly, in a way that grabs their attention and makes them want to call, click, buy, attend, donate, sign up – whatever it is you want them to do.
That audience has to be in no doubt that you’re speaking to them, and them alone. You can even be as direct as to mention them outright: ‘if you’re a healthcare professional, then…’

What you cannot do (if you expect a positive response) is pick your chosen audience + ‘whoever else might also be interested’.

I’ve lost count of the number of briefs I’ve seen (agency-side, in-house, and freelance) which state the target audience as: ‘female philanthropists, aged 50 – 70… and anyone else who may want to attend’ or ‘teenagers with acne… plus any adults who have a skin condition’.

If you try to talk to an audience like this (or a non-audience), you’ll end up with a diluted message that speaks to neither your target market nor ‘the others’ you’ve tried to reach.

What you’ll end up with is ‘horoscope copy’ – a message that could apply to just about anyone… so applies to no-one.

Pick an audience – a single target – and talk to them directly, leaving them in no doubt as to who your message is for, and why they should buy your product / service / attend your event, or donate / raise funds / volunteer.

Learn from horoscopes. Do the opposite.

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