Say What You Wanna Say…Sort Of

By Jessica Sharp, Maven Communications

My daughter loves the Sara Bareilles song “Brave.” The chorus goes like this: “Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.”

As she was singing it at the top of her lungs this morning, it got me thinking that, as a communicator, it’s my job to work with clients to help them say what they wanna say…but in a way that their target audience will understand and react to.

“Say what you wanna say, but use terms your audience understands.” Doesn’t quite have that same empowering vibe as the Bareilles version.

So, how do you determine what your audience wants to hear?

The first step is understanding what their concerns and drivers are. What keeps them up at night? What motivates them to take action? It’s important to get into their head. Here are a few effective ways to do this:

Focus groups – pretty straight forward. Get together a group of folks who fall into your target audience category and have a conversation focused on them. It’s important not to focus on your company or services. You already know what you offer, what you’re looking to uncover is how you can best talk about what you offer in the context of how it fits into their lives.

Individual interviews – same concept as the above, but on an individual basis. Again, you want to ask direct questions about goals, apprehensions, and drivers and listen to the words and phrases that he or she is using. This is not the time to talk about your product or service or their experience with it.

Online group observations – almost as effective and less costly are “sitting in” on group chats that include members of your target audience. Here you’re specifically looking for questions they’re posing to the group that will reveal the challenges they face or concerns they have.

Social media influencer observations – figure out who your target audience identifies as an influencer and observe the terms and messages he or she uses. If members of your target audience are following this person, it’s likely they consider them a trusted resource. Using the same phrasing and terms that he or she uses will likely resonate.

Google search terms – research the most utilized search terms and phrases people use to come across your product or solution category. It’s easy to get caught up using industry lingo when you speak it every day, but it’s important to realize that your target audience may not be using those same terms to search for the solution you offer.

Once you’ve got a good list of frequently used terms and phrases, as well as a solid understanding of what the concerns and drivers are of your target audience, you can now craft your company’s messaging. You can still say what you wanna say, just make sure you’re staying it in a way that will catch the attention of your target audiences.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at

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