gary s. whitford
Mass Communication is Personal

Hey you. Yes, I’m talking to you, directly and straight to you. Every time we communicate, no matter what channel we use, we are relating one on one. Mass communications is personal.

On the screen, above the highway, through a speaker or in a magazine, with distribution lists ranging from hundreds to millions, we write and speak to one person at a time. On the receiving end of our communications are two ears and two eyes that hear, read or watch at least part of your meaning.

Public Domain.

Even in an Auditorium

The only situation I can think of that is not one-on-one is a large audience where the speaker stands under stage lighting, sometimes behind a podium and addresses a crowd of people surrounded by others, they know the speaker is not talking just to them, but to the assemblage. But then, what did they tell you in Speech 101? “Stand up straight (gives you energy) and make eye contact.” Even when speaking to 1,000 people, you address them one at a time.

While your listener also knows you are sharing the message with others, they are consuming the information individually, personally. Even the members of the audience are hearing what you are saying within the personal context of their own understanding and experience.

Use the Power of Personal

To apply this understanding, take two steps and call me in the morning:

  1. Use the word “you.” Use it a lot in the first draft. Choose an imaginary representative of your target audience and speak directly to him or her. In the second draft, you will write around several of those “you” references as you smooth out and punch up the message. But in the first draft, you’re trying to craft information into a story. Engage the target audience as individuals and say what you mean – pour it all out.
  2. Relate to core personal needs. We all need someone we can trust, someone who understands our concerns and aspirations and won’t make fun of us. Readers are searching, and the writer establishes a personal authority by responding with the desired information or expression. Copywriters identify core benefits and communicate them in a way that responds to the consumer’s interests. We make sure the reader, web surfer, television viewer or radio listener knows that our product can meet their needs.

Not to Be Crass, but Everybody Uses Language to Sell

Photo By Iris Dimmick
Learning to communicate. Photo By Iris Dimmick.

I hope the application of close, personal communication to a business solution doesn’t offend or dishearten you, but we’re all selling. Babies learn to communicate in order to persuade action on their behalf – “feed me, please, change my diaper, I would like to get out of this playpen now.” We collaborate with coworkers, converse with cohorts and comingle with comingling partners in a pursuit to satisfy ideas, self actualization and the call of love. We want to be understood, we want to motivate a positive response, we communicate to persuade.

The most persuasive communication comes from speaking directly, writer to consumer, me to you. Write your intended message, your objective, on a sticky and put it next to the screen. Think about the receiver, and start talking through your keyboard. Give them my regards.

San Antonio copywriter gary s. whitford grapples, toys and dances with words all day. You can read more of his writing on his company’s website, Extraordinary Words, and in his personal blogHis column, Every Word Counts, appears in the Rivard Report every weekend.

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. Contact her at