Radio Hed: Audience Empathy

by Jeffrey Hedquist

To write effectively for any audience, you need to know as much about them and their lifestyle as possible. A versatile radio writer needs to “become” a middle-aged businessman, an extreme sport enthusiast, a Hispanic housewife with three children, a retired corporate executive, an African-American teenager. How do you reach each of these various groups if you aren’t a member? Talk to them.

I advocate informal focus groups. How informal? At your next family get together sit down and talk with your grandparents, your little cousin, your uncle. Talk with people on the bus, in the park. What brings them joy? What’s important in their lives? Do they listen to the radio? What commercials do they like or dislike? What insults them? What persuades them?

In short, find out as much as you can, so that when you create a commercial, you are actually writing about life from their perspective. How often should you continue this process? All your life. It will keep you informed about changing values. It will make you a better writer, better able to empathize with your audience. And...it can be a lot of fun.

Don’t begin with any preconceptions. Simply ask questions, be open to the answers, and encourage honesty. With real responses, you’ll be able to create commercials that are more honest and will resonate with the lives of your audience. 

© 1998 Hedquist Productions, Inc.

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