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Understanding Your Audience

To create compelling and useful content for Newcastle University, you need to get to know your audience.

Keep your audience in mind

One of the most important choices you will make when planning your content is to consider who it’s for, and what they really need and want.

We need to make content for our audiences, not ourselves.

It is tempting to simply write what we want to say and ask our audiences to absorb it.

But our audiences do not have to give us their attention. With so much content out there, we need to think about what they want, whether that involves helping them complete a task or solve a problem.

Knowing your audience

Knowing your audience helps you to determine a whole range of crucial factors, including:

  • what they need to know and when they need to know it
  • what they want to achieve
  • any issues they are facing and their level of familiarity with you and/or what you offer
  • the tone you should adopt and the language you should use
  • how do we want them to react
  • which channels you should use to reach them
  • where you should send them next
  • what your content is competing with for their time and attention

To make successful content, it’s so important that we understand how to identify audiences, and to design for their needs.

Selecting your primary audience

Often content can be of interest to more than one audience. However, trying to cater for too many audiences at once can make your content lengthy, unfocused and confusing.

Selecting a primary audience can determine the information you share, and the tone you adopt.

For example, the language and content of an information page will shift based on whether the primary audience is a prospective student, or their parents/ guardians.

When choosing your primary audience, consider who has the most direct need for this content. Think about how this content will meet that need and also your audience's motivations.

Understanding your audience better

There are many ways to get to know your audiences better, including:

  • search data
  • digital analytics
  • observing social media discourse and enquiries
  • market research and student funnel surveys 
  • focus groups and user testing
  • industry and 3rd party surveys, statistics and dashboards

Central Marketing's Market Insights team has access to several student recruitment data sources. It maintains a searchable depository of both Newcastle University’s and the latest sector research and insight.

You can contact us via the Market Insights enquiry form for help and guidance with data resources. You can also reach out for advice and assistance on how to develop and implement bespoke audience research.

We use this research not only to understand who our audiences are, but the factors that are influencing them. These might include:

  • their preferred channels and devices
  • the type of information they are looking for
  • their motivations, behaviours, influences and values
  • their current emotions, hopes, ambitions, fears and challenges
  • how busy they are
  • their comfort with the language and specific cultural cues
  • accessibility requirements 
  • influences they trust the most

Many factors could influence content designed for prospective international students. They include their country of origin, economic factors and language preferences. There could even be restrictions on which platforms they can access at home.

Identifying audience intention

When creating compelling and useful content, we need to establish what our audience wants to do.

This gives us a strong foundation, and helps us to make decisions about the information we share, and the types of content we use.

One way to start thinking honestly about what our audiences want is to write user stories.

User stories are short statements that identify a user, what they want to achieve, and why.

For example:

  • As a [persona, group or audience]
  • I want to [task they need to perform or information they want to learn]
  • So I can [goal they want to achieve]

You are free to write as many of these as you wish for your audience to decide what you should include in your content.

You may serve a few user stories with a single page or video, or you may need to design a journey for the user with several connected pieces of content. But you need to be honest about what your audience wants, rather than just shoehorn your own aims into an unauthentic user story.

Consider the user journey

Beyond the individual tasks, you must consider your audience's wider experience, or journey.

You will need to know the typical stages of an audience journey and where they might see your messaging. You should also think about what they are experiencing and feeling at each of these points.

This will help you to not only give them the information they need, but also to respond to the mood they are in.

For example, during Clearing, your audience may feel stressed. You should offer clear guidance and a clear and warm tone of voice, rather than overwhelming them with excessive information.

When you’re planning your audience’s journey, you should use the research that you’ve built up about them:


The channels they use, and how they use them


What they know about you, and even higher education generally


The beliefs that drive their decisions, and the feelings they are currently experiencing


Whose opinions they value, and what else is competing for their attention

Utilising audience research

For example, you may be presenting accommodation options to prospective students. Your research may inform you that an in-person visit is an important factor in getting them to sign up.

A more appropriate call to action might be 'See it for yourself at our Open Days' rather than a more passive 'Reserve your accommodation now'.

You should use your understanding of your audience, and knowledge of your own goals and objectives, to plan your content.