Back in another life, I spent a couple of years doing academic research into infant language development. Most of these experiments involved a baby or child hearing a recorded or live presentation of scripted language, and then doing some thing or another, depending on the experiment.

One experiment I led was designed to explore what linguists call “infant-directed speech”. It’s that sing-songy way we talk to babies, usually without even realizing we’re doing it: our average pitch goes up, and we increase the overall range of pitch we use – hence the sing-songy part – and we speak more slowly and use simpler words.

There was one major hurdle we needed to cross in developing the audio stimuli for this experiment – and that was that we adults pretty much only speak authentic infant-directed speech when we’re actually talking to a baby. But when recording stimuli for a scientific experiment, you need to eliminate all background noise – you can’t have a baby gurgling or moving around or cooing or screaming in the background. To approximate this as best we could, we taped a photo of an adorable baby in front of the microphone, and made sure the person recording the audio looked at it the whole time she was speaking.

I thought of this yesterday while I was writing an email about some consulting I’m going to do with an academic team, to help them figure out a social-media strategy for a major web-based program they’re going to launch soon. They’ll need to reach a wide variety of people, and so they’re going to need to use channels and styles that will effectively reach them all.

Maybe I’ll suggest they keep a photo or drawing of each kind of person up on the wall, so they can address them effectively as they write their posts.

Sounds silly, but I bet it’d help.

5 responses to “Who are you talking to?”

  1. Vanessa Avatar

    I think it would too. I’ve been using Tara Swiger’s suggestion of really coming up with your Perfect Person and keeping him/her in mind when you write for your business. It’s helped me really focus my writing and has kept me from feeling like I have to write all the things for all the people.

  2. jwatkiss Avatar

    Oh yes! Personas! We totally use them. So handy, so cheesy :)

  3. Heather Ordover Avatar
    Heather Ordover

    Brill. Never thought of that before, but totally Brilliant.

    1. Kim Werker Avatar

      Right? So obvious, yet so profound. And, as Jen said, cheesy. But only because they can be so hilarious! But also useful. So very useful.

      1. Heather Ordover Avatar
        Heather Ordover

        And for me, the CraftLit listeners are ALL over the board. Science lab workers who never took a literature class, SAHMs who haven’t gotten to college yet, long-drive commuters, and retirees. I’m going to have to collage my office!

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