Last time I talked about the importance of asking, “How can I help my audience?” rather than, “How can I communicate my message?” 

One of the first steps in helping your audience is to find their currencies. In other words, what is of value to them?  What’s important in their world? Whatever you communicate needs to be converted to these currencies in order to be useful or meaningful to them.

For example, you might be excited about cyber security, the Internet of Things, digital literacies, or virtual labs. Your audience probably isn’t. Don’t make them do the hard work of figuring out how to convert your message into something they can use; make it easy by doing the currency conversion for them.

So what are their currencies and how do you find them?  Matt Church in The Thought Leaders Practice talks about currencies that people value, including money, time, happiness and status.

Money and time are valuable currencies for everyone. They are a safe bet. If you can save or make money or time for people, you are helping them.

Happiness and status are also very important currencies, but these take different forms for different people, and you’ll need to get to know your audience to find out what forms these take for them. For example, I started using Uber recently. I know, I’m not exactly an early adopter. But the thing that pushed me over the line to try it was a stressful experience where I almost missed a flight because the taxi I had booked took ages to arrive at my pickup address, and I had to make several panicked calls to the taxi company while the driver tried to find me. Since trying Uber, I’ve found it gives me a much less stressful experience in getting where I need to be, and that freedom from stress is valuable for me--more valuable than the cost savings of the service and the time savings of automatic payment, even those those are both very nice. But you’d have to get to know me and my world in order to know that.

Anything people measure about themselves is a currency for them, so learning what their Key Performance Indicators are is a great place to start. For example, researchers are usually measured on research impact. If you can show a researcher how to demonstrate greater research impact, you’re helping them.

Once you’ve found your audience’s currencies, you’ll be in a much better position to help them by converting your message into something they can easily use.