The media can be divided into two main categories: trade and consumer. Trade media outlets focus on a particular profession or industry and support workers’ professional development. Consumer media outlets target the general public or members of the public who are interested in specific activities or issues.
Broadcast media (television and radio) are pretty much geared toward consumers, but print and digital (blogs, digital magazines, podcasts, etc.) media cover both categories. It’s a communication professional’s job to determine the writing style and message appropriate to each category.
Recognize Their Different Interests
One way of adjusting your style is considering what will interest the audience, journalists or bloggers that you are targeting. For example, RV Business is a trade publication for people working in the recreational vehicle industry while Motorhome is a consumer magazine for owners and prospective buyers of RVs. Both are interested in receiving information about new products, but the way they cover the products differs significantly.
For example, look at the final paragraph of a RV Business article describing a new product:
With a comprehensive array of driver assistance systems, load adaptive ESP, maintenance intervals of up to 60,000 miles and a 5-star depreciation ranking from ALG (the only van in the North American market to achieve the top rating), Mercedes has apparently taken the challenge posed by new U.S. entrants – such as the Ram ProMaster (Fiat Ducato) and Ford’s European Transit Van – seriously …
Motorhome, on the other hand, ends a review of a new product in the following way:
As expected, the list of standard features for a motorhome of this caliber is rather extensive. By contrast the list of options is not that long, meaning it’s well equipped right out of the box. Just north of $9,600 covered all the available options, except for the satellite dish.
By diesel-pusher standards, the Meridian’s stature is on the small side, but aside from its physical length, there’s nothing small about the 34B. The floorplan is entertainment-friendly, and of course, it’s perfect for a couple looking for a big dose of luxury.
RV Business, the trade publication, is interested in the technical aspects of a new product and its place in the overall market, which is information that can help its readers to do their jobs better. Motorhome, the consumer publication, focuses on what type of experience users will have.
Use Appropriate Language
You know how writing experts are constantly telling you to avoid jargon? When you’re targeting trade media, using common technical terms for that particular industry or profession is not only appropriate, it boosts confidence in your expertise.
Please note that when I use the term jargon, I’m not talking about buzzwords like paradigm shift. The purpose of such words is to make the writer/speaker seem clever or generally impressive, but audiences quickly tire of them.
I’m talking about the common technical or specialized terms used by industry members to communicate swiftly and efficiently. Examples include monkey test for the field of software testing, Kanban management for manufacturing operations or EBITDA for accounting and finance.
Material targeted to consumer media, on the other hand, generally should be written so that members of the general public can understand it. In addition to making your message accessible to anyone who may take an interest, a good reason for using plain English is that reporters often change beats so, for example, you may have to deal with a journalist who has only just moved to a specialized section of your newspaper (a consumer publication).
These two categories have several subcategories that may require you to further tailor your message, but distinguishing trade from consumer media is one of the first steps toward successfully attracting their attention.