Book Title
Business Communication: Building Critical Skills 6th Edition

978-0073403267 Chapter 2 Key Lecture Points, Teaching Tips, and In-Class Exercises

April 6, 2019
Module 2
Adapting Your Message to Your Audience
LO 2-1 Understand expectations from your organization.
LO 2-2 Define audiences for messages.
LO 2-3 Apply strategies for audience analysis with PAIBOC.
LO 2-4 Apply strategies for individual and group audience analyses.
LO 2-5 Apply strategies for audience needs analysis.
LO 2-6 Adapt messages for audiences.
LO 2-7 Choose channels for audiences.
Module Overview
Module 2 discusses ways for students to adapt messages to audiences. It identifies the five types
of audiences and strategies to shape messages to meet different audience needs. It also discusses
the tools writers can use, such as demographics and psychographics.
Because it discusses seminal concepts in business communication, Kitty and Steve recommend
Module 2 be covered early in your course. Students should return to it as they analyze audiences
for the messages they write and the presentations they give.
As with all modules, Kitty and Steve recommend that you read Module 2 thoroughly before
reviewing the discussion that follows.
Teaching Tip: Students often believe that regardless of the class, audience
expectations on writing assignments remain the same. Have them discuss situations
where they found themselves following the writing guidelines and expectations of
previous instructors only to discover that guidelines and expectations had changed
with their audience. What steps did the students take to analyze the new audience?
What “clues” did the new instructor reveal as to his or her expectations? How did
the instructor reveal them? What did they learn about the importance of audience
analysis from the experience?
In-Class Exercise: Individually or in groups, have the students spend 15-20 minutes
discussing who they believe are the audiences for movies—the latest romantic
comedy, action thriller, and literary drama. What are the characteristics of each
audience? How do the students know?
What’s in This Supplement
This supplement is organized around the major questions posed in Module 2. It covers
Part 1: Key Lecture Points, Teaching Tips, and In-Class Exercises Page 19
Part 2: Answers to Textbook Assignments Page 33
Part 3: Appendixes of Handouts/Transparency Masters Page 37
PowerPoint presentations can be found at our Web page at www.mhhe.com/bcs6e.
Questions (with answers) suitable for quizzes are in the Instructors Test Bank. For student
practice quizzes with answers, see our Web page.
Part 1: Key Lecture Points, Teaching Tips, and In-Class Exercises
Understanding what your organization wants LO 2-1
Just as every sport has rules about scoring, so, too, do workplaces have rules about what
“counts.” But often these rules are not spelled out nor communicated directly to employees. For
every expectation discussed in an employee handbook, there are probably several others that
never get spoken of overtly or that require employees to observe and listen carefully to determine
what organizations seek.
This concept may be obvious to some of your students but quite novel to others. If we are to
believe the anecdotal information about challenges many companies face today, a sizable number
of incoming workers could use greater awareness of how (and why) to adapt.
Teaching Tip: Think back to your own experiences adapting to an organization’s
culture. For instance, how did you figure out what spaces were okay for socializing
versus which were strictly for quiet and work? How did you know what to wear, and
more importantly, what clothing, colors, and styles to avoid? How did you identify
leaders? Heroes? Role models? Share some of your observations with your class,
and ask students already in the workforce what strategies and experiences they rely
on to make choices.
As PP 2-4 and PP 2-5 suggest, several strategies to help employees adapt exist:
Ask your boss, “What parts of my job are most important? What’s
the biggest thing I could do to improve my work?”
Listen to the stories colleagues tell about people who have succeeded
and those who have failed.
Teaching Tip: Remind students that they likely will make
mistakes—adaptation in any circumstance is governed by trial
and error—and one of the hardest realities to accept is how
much isn’t explained to employees when the arrive for that first
day on the job. But we survive!
Who is my audience? LO 2-2
More people than you might think!
Students often are surprised to learn that audiences for their messages may be complex and more
than one person. Understanding these concepts takes time—but it’s time well spent!
Kitty and Steve support the audience-centered approach to communication. By keeping the
audiences in mind, writers and speakers are more likely to create effective messages for those
Key to understanding the importance of audience is defining the five types of audiences (p. 20),
as described in PP 2-6.
The five kinds of audiences:
1 Initial audience
2 Gatekeeper
3 Primary audience
4 Secondary audience
5 Watchdog audience
For messages going to multiple audiences, writers should use the primary audience and the
gatekeeper to decide on message detail, organization, level of formality, and technical terms and
Teaching Tip: Students often confuse gatekeepers with initial audiences.
Emphasize that while gatekeepers can also be the initial audience, the initial
audience does not have to be a gatekeeper. Initial audiences simply are the first to
receive the message. Students also should understand the importance of secondary
audiences. For instance, a letter to an employee announcing a benefits change may
not only affect the employee but also his or her spouse or domestic partner.
Figures 2.1 and 2.2 (p. 21) help students to visualize how audiences work. A key concept
illustrated in both figures is the multiple roles that audiences can take. For instance, in Figure
2.1, the boss is both the initial audience and the gatekeeper. The figures also help students
understand the “real world” application of audience—both figures suggest the multitude of
audiences possible for a business message.
(Students must remember, however, that the primary audience will most affect how the writer
approaches creating the message.)
In-Class Exercise: Individually or in groups, have students spend 10-15 minutes
identifying key audiences for common messages. Good general examples are
applying for a job where several levels of executives will review the application or a
familiar advertisement for a product or service. Have the students brainstorm how
the message intended for the primary audience would be affected by additional
audiences (which they also must identify) and their needs or concerns. For more
specific scenarios, consider assigning Exercise 2.8 (p. 33).
Why is my audience so important? LO 2-3
To be successful, messages must meet the audiences’ needs.
Some students resist the notion that audience plays so important a role
in communication, assuming instead that the writer or speaker should
be privileged.
But successful messages always meet the audiences’ needs. To help
students better understand the effect of audience on a message, have
them consider audience and PAIBOC (introduced in Module 1). PP
2-12 and PP 2-13 discuss PAIBOC and audience analysis.
PAIBOC (pp. 22-24) refers to six areas writers should consider when
composing messages. Five of those areas relate to audience:
P What are your purposes in writing or speaking?
A Who is (are) your audiences? How do members of your audience differ?
I What information must your message include?
B What reasons or reader benefits can you use to support your position?
O What objections can you expect your reader(s) to have? What negative elements of your
message must you de-emphasize or overcome?
C How will the context affect reader response? Think about your relationship to the reader,
morale in the organization, the economy, the time of year, and any special circumstance.
PAIBOC allows students to quickly identify the six key areas in planning messages and
designing messages. Make sure students understand what each component of PAIBOC
A simplified model of two-person communication with feedback,
stressing the importance of audience, is the focus of Figure 2.3 (p.
23). Its principal parts are described on PP 2-14 and PP 2-15.
Students should understand from this figure the principal actions
that take place in both sending and receiving a message:
Teaching Tip: Most students are aware of the concept
of codes and codebooks. Use this to help explain the
encoding/decoding process. For instance, once a
message is put into secret code, the receiver must have the codebook in order to
decipher, or decode, the message. Similarly, business messages sent in the wrong
code make no sense to the receiver. They are just as secret.
Teaching Tip: Emphasize to students that noise can occur at any point during the
message transmission, such as when the sender uses jargon that the receiver will not
understand or telephones a business after hours. While senders cannot control all
noise factors, students should keep in mind those under the senders control—
language, how and when the message will be sent, and the form the message will
In-Class Exercise: Individually or in groups, have the students spend 15-20 minutes
recounting frustrations they’ve had sending or receiving messages. These could be
at work, at school, or in their personal lives. Have them identify what they believe
were noise factors. Ask the students to list what steps could have been taken to
minimize the noise.
To better understand channels, have students in groups analyze some or all of the channel
possibilities in Exercise 2.9 (p. 34).
What do I need to know about my audience(s)? LO 2-4
Everything that’s relevant to what you’re writing or talking about.
Kitty and Steve believe the more a writer knows about the audience when composing, the more
likely the message will succeed. Many students, however, are uncertain what steps can be taken
to assess audience.
A key to understanding audience is empathy, or putting oneself in the audiences’ shoes.
Empathy requires students to imagine themselves as the audience and to anticipate and
understand the audiences’ emotional, psychological, and physical needs. Therefore, writers must
avoid being self-centered.
In-Class Exercise: Form groups of two students each. Have Student A share a
(non-traumatic) story with Student B about a significant interaction with another
person in which Student A was displeased or misunderstood. Then, have Student B
assume the role of Student A in the situation, while Student A assumes the other role.
Role play, re-creating the event as best possible. Afterward, have each student
discuss what they thought and felt during the role play. How do Student B’s
thoughts and feelings compare to what Student A actually thought and felt in the
original situation? What did Student A learn about the other person? Repeat with
Student B’s story.
Beyond empathy, five additional concepts about audience can
help, all of which are illustrated on PP 2-16 and discussed in
detail on PP 2-17 through 2-20:
Demographic Factors
Teaching Tip: Such “objective” information may be attractive to students,
particularly those who come from fields of study that privilege it. Emphasize that
making hasty generalizations about audience from demographics is dangerous. For
instance, belonging to one ethnicity or another does not guarantee loyalty to a
particular product or service, even if it is more likely to be used by members of that
group. Students must understand that demographics are just one of many tools at
their disposal.
Values and Beliefs
In-Class Exercise: Have students form groups of 3-5 and spend 15-20 minutes
completing Exercise 2.9 (p. 34), which offers insight into the dimensions of
demographics and psychographics. Afterward, consider challenging the assumptions
students have made—what do they base their conclusions on? Are there any groups
left out of their analysis? Why? What might these issues suggest about the
limitations of demographics and psychographics?
Personality—Different personality types may require different strategies for working
with them. For instance, an introvert may prefer to read information while an extravert
may prefer to have a phone or a face-to-face conversation.
In-Class Exercise: Take 15-20 minutes to have students individually or in groups
recount experiences with supervisors who preferred to have information in writing
versus those who wanted the information orally. Which wanted more detail? Which
might have delayed making decisions? Which might be introverted? Extraverted?
What other dimensions might be represented? Why do the students think so? Have
them consider the values applied to these terms. All have strengths and weaknesses,
but do the students privilege some personality dimensions more than others? Should
Past Behavior
Teaching Tip: The world seems to be changing at ever-increasing speeds. To
illustrate this concept, have students spend 10-15 minutes comparing fads popular
this year to those two years ago. Five years ago. Ten years ago. Are there any
constants? What is different? What might the actions of the past suggest about the
future? Ask the students what they think the “shelf life” is for information in a
constantly changing world.
Additional concepts students should remember are discourse community
and organizational (or corporate) culture. Use PP 2-21 through PP 2-23
to illustrate these concepts.
Discourse Community
Organizational or Corporate Culture
Norms of Behavior in an Organization
While there may be similarities, each discourse community and
organizational culture can be quite different from the next. Differences
can even exist among (and within) departments and subsidiaries within
the same organization. Students must use a combination of observation,
research through asking colleagues questions, and trial-and-error to learn
these differences.
Spend at least 10 minutes defining and explaining organizational culture
and discourse communities and how they affect both spoken and written
messages. Use this terminology throughout your discussion of audience
and throughout the course as you discuss assignments students will
Teaching Tip: A common reaction from students to some
business communication concepts is “That’s not how we do it in my company.”
Take this opportunity to discuss discourse community and organizational culture.
What might the practice in question reveal about either? Ask the class if they believe
such a practice would work in a different discourse community or organizational
culture. Why or why not?
The concept of discourse communities is crucial: it explains in part why some documents
“succeed” on a particular job even though they would not get high grades in your course.
Teaching Tip: Make your course expectations and standards of grading for
assignments clear to your students. In effect, your classroom is one discourse
community, and students certainly will have to adapt to your standards throughout
the course. Invite them to ask questions and practice skills to assess its boundaries.
In-Class Exercise: Choose 3-4 different organizations and list them on the board.
Microsoft, the Walt Disney Corporation, Wendy’s International, etc., are good places
to start; a good source for this information would be the company Web sites, such as
www.microsoft.com; http://disney.com; www.wendys.com. For 15 minutes, have students list
what similar and dissimilar qualities each might have with regard to organizational
culture. For instance, who might the heroes be? Where might casual dress be
acceptable? How might success be determined? At the conclusion, take a quick poll
of how many students might want to work for each. Take another five minutes to
discuss with students why some organizations might seem more or less appealing.
Let students share why.
Now that I have my analysis, what do I do with it? LO 2-5
Use it to plan strategy, organization, style, document design, and visuals.
If writers know their audience well, many of their audience analysis
decisions will be unconscious or “instinctive.” More commonly,
though, writers will need to consider five areas during audience
analysis. These are illustrated in PP 2-24 for use in a 15- to 20-minute
Word Choice
Teaching Tip: What students perceive as “academic” language may be different
from that of their instructors. Ask the students to share what kind of words the term
brings to mind. What specific examples are problematic? What language would
they substitute? Would the change accurately convey the same information?
Document Design
Photographs and Visuals
Teaching Tip: Though most students inundate themselves daily with such visual
images as movies, magazines, music videos, and Web pages, few consider the power
and content of the images they see. Help them by using a common advertisement
featuring images of people. From those images, have the students share their
perceptions. Who is the ad aimed at? What assumptions has the advertiser made
about that audience? Its needs and lifestyle? Who is excluded from the ad? If the
image is non-inclusive, what might the effect be on overlooked individuals?
In-Class Exercise: Locate two different messages from your college or university. A
good example might be a letter explaining to students a policy or procedure, such as
applying for financial aid, registering for classes, or moving into the dormitory.
Contrast that with a letter to alumni requesting donations or a memo to staff and
faculty explaining a contractual or human resources issue. For 15-20 minutes, have
students as a class review each message to decide how strategy, organization, style,
and if applicable, document design and visuals are used by the writer to
communicate the message. What other audiences might these messages be
addressed to? What assumptions have the writers made about the audiences? If time
permits, ask students if they see opportunities for revision that might better
communicate the message to the audiences.
What if my audiences have different needs? LO 2-6
Focus on gatekeepers and decision makers.
When it’s not possible to meet all audience members’ needs, writers
should focus on gatekeepers and decision makers first, shown in PP
Writers should look to these factors when composing:
Content and choice of details.
Level of formality.
Use of technical terms and theory.
Teaching Tip: Use Appendix 2-A through Appendix 2-D to show students two
examples of how different audiences may have different expectations concerning an
issue. In these examples—one aimed at workers and the other at the boss—the same
general issue about work efficiency during a holiday is addressed. Let students see
that different audiences will have different expectations and that the writer will
choose content and expression accordingly.
How do I reach my audience(s)? LO 2-7
Important messages may require multiple channels.
The communication channel a writer or speaker chooses can affect the success of the message.
The advantages of each kind of message and considerations for communication channels include
(illustrated on PP 2-26 through PP 2-30):
A written message (PP 2-27) makes it easier to
Present many specific details of a law, policy, or procedure
Present extensive or complex financial data.
Minimize undesirable emotions.
(Because paper messages are more formal, email should be used primarily for routine messages
to people writers know.)
Writers should choose carefully the channel they use to communicate a message. Channels can
vary according to
Accuracy of transmission.
Number of messages carried.
Number of people reached.
Ability to provide goodwill.
An oral message (PP 2-28) makes it easier to
Answer questions, resolve conflicts, and build consensus
Use emotion to help persuade the audience.
Get immediate action or response.
Focus the audience’s attention on specific points.
Modify a proposal that may not be acceptable in its original form.
As PP 2-29 shows, channels have a variety of properties. For both oral and written messages
Adapt the message to the specific audience.
Show the audience members how they benefit from the idea,
policy, service, or product.
Overcome any objections the audience may have.
Use you-attitude and positive emphasis.
Use visuals to clarify or emphasize material
Specify exactly what the audience should do.
Last Word: Emphasize to students that while it’s unrealistic to expect to know
everything about their audiences, using what they know—and taking steps to learn
what they don’t—often is a winning combination. They should also be prepared to
make mistakes, as even in the best of situations, there is always room for error. The
goal is to minimize the potential for errors and to maximize the learning from them for
the future.