From the very genesis of human existence, the need to communicate has been part of human beings. Our life with others and in the community requires us to interact with the people around us, to share ideas, thoughts, feelings and experience with others, to make sense of the world, and to position ourselves in a wider social and cultural reality. In so doing, we listen and speak, and receive and give information, which is a two-way process. Communication connotes ‘communion,’ community/ ‘making common,’ or `to share.’ The message transmitted is intentional and meant to convey meaning from a sender to a receiver through a medium or channel that includes struggle with interference and barriers. Communication is complex. We use symbols, words, pictures, facial expressions, hand signs, voice, tone, graphics, silence, writing, painting, dressing, dancing, and body language. Formally and informally, every person communicates and therefore everybody is clientele and audience of communication.
However, to make communication effective and attainable, the specific or intended clientele and audience in an instance of communication need to be clearly understood so that message packaging, forms, and medium can be properly customized. Effective communication assumes the audience’s perspective and ensures that the message is relevant to them. This means that the method of communication is carefully selected as most effective for the target audience.
All people are clientele and audience in communication. However, communication can only be effective when communicators take into consideration the characteristics of the intended clientele and audience. Characteristics like social position, education level, age range, race and ethnicity, primary language, health status, job type, and information sources are worth considering.
Social position is the status that a person enjoys in a communication context. One may be a president or leader, middle manager, a colleague or co-equal, or a subordinate in an organization of community. These social positions dictate how one gets communicated to and how that communication has to be crafted, packaged, contained, and delivered.
Education level may suggest the reading skills and healthy literacy and the ability to engage with more complex topics—new and even unfamiliar. An audience that has limited literacy skills may find it difficult to use written materials; with such audience, oral presentations may be more effective.
Age range can affect choice of communication format or distribution. The communication materials may be relevant to people of all ages but the age of the audience may affect the communication format or distribution channels. Social media websites and mobile texting for example may be more appropriate for providing information to younger audience while printed materials, emails, phone calls, meetings, and memos may be more effective for older audience.
Race and ethnicity is an important consideration in communication particularly in deciding on graphics and photos. It is important to design the graphics and photos in the communication materials to reflect the demographics of the intended audience.
Primary language has to be considered if the message is to be effective. If the language used is different from the one used by the target audience, there is a need to translate the communication materials into the primary language.
Health status matters a lot as it dictates people’s disposition to listening and responding and the ability to’ make meaning out of the communicated material. Although people with certain health conditions tend to be more informed health-care consumers with a greater awareness of issues within the health-care system, it is important that the materials are more personal and relevant to specific health conditions or issues.
Job type of the audience can affect the format of materials and the distribution methods to be used. For an audience without access to their own computers, disseminating the materials through an Internet site or email messages may not be effective.
Information sources matter for they affect the format and distribution of the communication materials and also the medium they trust.