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Guidebook 15 The Communication Process Content Failing to link the information with the audience, context, and strategy causes most of the issues What Is Content? with technical materials. Help your readers get through the information effortlessly and Whether preparing a research efficiently by analyzing and interpreting what report, presentation, fact you need to communicate and explaining what sheet, or news release or participating in a is important and why, without forcing them to face-to-face meeting with your audience, think wade through technical jargon, obtuse language, carefully about how you convey your message. or undigested data. Even if your material has great organization and is well written, it will not have the desired impact on your target audience if it fails to contain the right information. The content of your messages will not stand Presenting Content alone. It depends on the context and strategy. Consider the following tips in presenting information: Why Is Content Important? Use clear, direct, active language, Selecting appropriate information to convey not a bureaucratic or academic style. your messages is critical. If your content is Minimize jargon. If you need to inappropriate, you lose credibility, and your use a technical term, define it clearly. audience is likely to dismiss your message Use analogies and metaphors for altogether. Determining your content requires additional explanation. considering your audience's values and Get their attention. Use photographs perceptions of your research or the problem it of technology, people, bridges, and is solving. Ask yourself the following questions highways, and clearly explain what is in when considering whether the information the photographs. you are trying to convey is appropriate for your Keep it simple. Use complex plots and audience: diagrams sparingly--or save them for technical publications. Is this information necessary to address the Use humor where appropriate. audience's needs? What does the audience People will remember what you say need to know? What does it want to know? or write if you make them laugh. What does it already know? Tell the whole story. Explain not Will the audience be lost and confused just what you did, but why you did it. without this information? Is the level of discussion too general for this audience? Too technical? Not technical enough?
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Guidebook 16 Communicating the Value of Transportation Research How Is Content Used Effectively? Shaping information to meet your audience's needs depends on understanding your audience and the purpose of your communication. When Pretest Content considering information for your communication materials, the following techniques will help your or Materials audience derive the essential information from An important step you can take before finalizing the materials: any communication content or materials is to pretest them. Pretesting content is a way Add necessary information. Determine if of improving ideas and prototypes for your any key information your audience needs materials by submitting them for review to to understand your materials is missing. people who are similar to your target audience For example, make sure you have included and getting their feedback before the design important background information about and production stage. Pretesting allows you the main discussion, definition of key terms, to determine whether your communication and so on. materials are suitable for and understood by your target audience and whether they evoke the Delete unnecessary information. Most intended reaction, and to revise the concepts and readers feel obligated to read or scan all approach, if they seem unlikely to produce the information in a document. Unnecessary desired results. information will confuse and even frustrate your audience. Pretesting can be done formally through focus groups, or informally by asking five or six Include examples. Examples are one of representatives from each target audience group, the most powerful ways to communicate stakeholders representing your audience, or one messages. When conveying a complex or or two technical experts for their opinions on the technical concept, examples and analogies following information: can illustrate the information. General understanding of the information, Review the organization of your including technical level. information. You may be presenting Accuracy and amount of the information the right information but you may have presented. arranged or presented it in the wrong Credibility of the information source way. Elements of style (i.e., using transition (you or your organization). sentences and presenting your information using images) can enhance the content of Reactions induced by the content. your material. This is covered in more detail Usefulness of the materials for in the Style section of this chapter. evoking reactions and viewpoints from participants. Use cross-references to important information. When presenting technical For more details on Pretesting, see Chapter 3. information, reference sources that supplement or support the information to add credibility.