In today’s society, PR practitioners must know how to communicate with a diverse audience due to the wide variety of ethnicities in the United States. According to the 2010 Census, non-Hispanic white remains as the largest ethnic group in America; however, it continues as the slowest growing ethnicity. Due to higher immigration rates, Hispanic and Asian ethnicities continue to grow rapidly. Both the Asian and Hispanic populations increased by 43 percent each between 2000 and 2010. As our nation’s population rapidly becomes more diverse, we need to have a clear understanding of them to effectively communicate. This understanding includes their languages, customs, religions, etiquette, cultural values, and traditions. Below I have listed the five steps to effectively communicate with a diverse audience.
1. Identify Your Audience
First, you need to do your homework. You must understand your audience before you can communicate with them. You need to know whom exactly you will target. Finding the demographics and psychographics of your audience will provide some insight as to what you need to research to properly approach them.
2. Understand Your Audience
Once you identify your audience, you will need to do some research on their cultural backgrounds. A deep understanding of the audience’s culture will help you know how to approach them. Cultures vary drastically and you could easily accidentally offend someone because you didn’t research their cultural values. Honda provides an example of a mistake like this. The introduction of Honda’s new car the “Fitta,” introduced to the Nordic countries in 2001, offended many. The car was introduced not knowing the meaning of the word “fitta,” an old vulgar word in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish, referred to a woman’s genitals. Needless to say, Honda renamed the car immediately. A little research could have easily prevented this mistake that offended their market. Sites such as Geert-Hoftede and Kwintessential can help you to do this research easily. These sites provide great insight and make research a quick and simple process.
3. Engage and Interact With Your Audience
While communicating with an audience you must have them interact with you to ensure you both get the most out of the experience. When discussing various topics, ask the audience for their opinions or suggestions. Most likely they will provide you with helpful insight you may have not thought of. Creating this positive and open environment can provide challenges when discussing controversial issues. To help engage with the audience, ask them for recommendations or ideas on how you can improve your arguments. This will help to lighten the topic and allow them to think critically along with you, while contributing to the discussion. Give them a sense of importance.
4. Listen Carefully
If audience members provide you with feedback, you need to really listen to what they have to say. You cannot give insightful feedback if you think of your response while they speak because you cannot listen to their entire argument while thinking of your own.
5. Take Your Time
As Kerry Patterson addressed in her article, “Bridging the communication gap: How to reach a shared understanding with diverse audiences,” take your time when responding to feedback to show respect to your audience. Many cultures consider it immature and rude to respond quickly to a suggestion. People want to feel important when they provide feedback so remember to consider thoughtfully each suggestion before responding. Listen to what they have to say, take a moment to think about it, then respond. They will notice if you do this properly because you will respond with information they just told you, showing them you care about what they have to say and really consider their thoughts. Pay attention to the way to word an argument when you respond. If you disagree, make sure to state your opinion gently so the audience does not feel attacked or degraded. You want to come to a mutual understanding and gain insight, not simply win the argument. This contributes to the respectful environment you strive to create that allows for the audience to feel comfortable in engaging with the speaker.