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Know Your Audience

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Contributed by Greg McVerry
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Empathy for your audience allows you to craft messages that empower others. In this task we will take a user centered approach to designing our messages. We will role play and then you develop user personas for your upcoming campaign.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe how three fictional audiences react to the same message
  • Role play as a skeptical and enthusiastic audience member.
  • Design a user persona for a particular audience.
  • Recognize how cultural differences influence audience.


Activity – Gaining Perspective

  1. Click the image above, to watch a video on Encryption.
  2. Discuss (or consider for yourself)  how the following 3 audiences would react to this video:
    • A grandmother who uses Facebook to see photos of her grandkids.
    • A farmer who has never been online.
    • A software engineer.
    • A teenager.
  3. Discuss or consider for yourself) these following questions:
    • What elements in the video do not account for cultural differences?
    • Who do you think is the videos intended audience?
    • What was the Call to Action in the video?

Activity – Persona Design

A ‘Persona’ is a way of describing the person we are designing an experience for, so that we can do so with empathy and thoughtfulness.  By referring to personas by name, we move from the abstract of ‘user’ to personalized experience that truly help people.

…setting the stage

  1. Partner participants in pairs based on similarity of interests, background or knowledge. Assuming this is known, otherwise use a round of introductions to bring out similarities:

“Hi my name is _____________ and right now and in my community I am trying to engage people on the topic of __________”


Ask participants to self-organize into pairs based on what resonated with them about someone else’s audience or goal . Keep  groups to 3 or less people, encouraging an adventurous spirit for those who can’t seem to find a similarity at all.

The goal of  interviews is to recognize similar audiences –  personalities, ambitions, motivations  – to gain empathy for why people turn up, and where they hope to go. For each of these questions


  • Partner A will interview Partner B, and have one minute per question.
  • Then Partner B will interview Partner on the same question. Ask participants to record as many important themes, ideas, and things of interest as they can on sticky notes.
  1. Q1 Who is in your community?
  2. Q2 How would you describe the person, or people you are most trying to engage in your community, or for your community??
  3. Q3 Imagine: what does that person get excited about, and why? What might they find challenging or discouraging, and why?
  4. Q4 What do you think is challenging for this person when engaging with your or your community? What are their restrictions, concerns and limitations?

…Building Personas

Using this template, ask partners to fill in key words fore each category, and to have fun naming, and drawing their audience persona.

… Wrap Up

Share your Personas with the group!  Encourage people to share what felt surprising, or insightful about the process and how using Personas can help them design with empathy for their audience in future.

CC ‘Air Letter’ by Imagesstock