Getting the APCs Right (Audience, Purpose, Context) in your Communications

Audience, Purpose, ContextEvery communication project begins with analysis of the APCs; audience, purpose, and context. Before creating your communication, you should know who you are communicating with, why, and under what circumstances. And by communication project I’m talking about everything from a telephone conversation with your great aunt Elsa, to producing a multi-million dollar blockbuster movie. Literally every communication has these three components at its core.


Your analysis of audience, purpose and context can be informal or very formal and extensive. How much effort you put into analyzing APC is determined by the scope of your project and the overall return on investment of the communication. When you’re composing an email to a coworker, you probably work out in your mind the ACPs while you’re drafting the email. At the other extreme, you may want to conduct some primary or secondary research into your target audience, how best to communicate with them, how best to get them to act on your message, and under what circumstances (when, where, and how) to deliver your message so it has the greatest impact.


Who you want to communicate with is probably your first consideration. First of all, how many people? Is it 100 or 100,000? You want to know about their demographics, as well as commonalities and unique qualities. You want to know about audience age, sex, nationality, language abilities, their knowledge of or experience level with the message you want to share with them. Is it one monolithic audience or are there five distinct sub-audiences? Can one communication reach the audience, or does it require multiple pieces each aimed at a sub-audience. For example, you might best reach your audience who are in their 20s one way with one type of message, and the over 50 audience a different way with a different type of message.


Why you’re communicating with your audience and why the audience wants to hear your message is the second consideration. Are you inviting your uncle Bud to Thanksgiving dinner and looking for a “yes” answer, or are you trying to convince 150,000 associates to complete their required compliance training by the end of the month? For training/performance improvement pieces, you want to show your audience how to perform the task and give them practice and feedback as they learn it. For these pieces, you’re trying to change behavior.


The context of your communication is also critical. Are you yelling “fire!” because you just started a grease fire in your kitchen? Or maybe you’re writing about your company’s quarterly performance for your stockholders while you follow various templates, get certain reviews, and meet certain timelines. For this discussion of corporate technical communications, we’re usually talking about internal and external communications that we have at least some time to prepare. Our typical modes of delivery include; live broadcast, recorded presentations, email, documents, guides, and eLearning.

After you’ve determined the audience, purpose, and context you can design and craft the message. When drafting your piece, typically, you’ll use the persuasive writing style. More about that in a future article.

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