Monday, November 25, 2013

Finding Your Voice

The dietetics profession is very broad and diverse in types of jobs and clientele. Because everyone must eat to live, anyone can be a potential client. However, the same approach cannot be taken to communicate with all groups. A message that may resonate with one group may be irrelevant, confusing, or even offensive to another group. Finding the correct tone, voice, and message is essential to effective communication to a target population. During my first few months in the University of Maryland Dietetic Internship Program I have had the privilege of working for several different organizations that serve very different populations, and finding the correct message and voice to reach my target population has been an ever changing challenge.

At my first rotation, I worked at Riderwood assisted living community in the dining services department. One of my major assignments was to plan, advertise, and carry out a 120 person themed meal event for the residents. My target population was older adults who were retired and in the golden years. Much of this population was not very tech savvy, so more old- fashioned methods of communication were paramount to involving this group. Posters and flyers were essential to advertising, but great care had to be taken to make them have contrasting, easily readable colors and a large font size so that they could actually be read. Also, the seniors would become very engaged by just chatting with them, and would become much more interested if you took the time to interact- very different from my generation’s media centered interaction. 

My next stop was with the University of Maryland Campus Dining. During this rotation much of my time was spent developing educational posters, flyers, and table tents for both employees and students. Creating materials for the students tended to focus on how to improve the health of activities they typically engage, such as how to make football Sunday healthier, or how to eat healthy on a road trip. Materials for the workers had to be simpler, easily followed messages about increasing exercise and healthier eating that would be easily understood and affordable. Making materials for both groups taught me about how to realize who I am writing for, and what will strike a chord with each group.

Most recently, I have been working at the International Food Information Council (IFIC) whose mission is to effectively communicate science- based information about health, food safety, and nutrition for the public good. Because materials are developed for the consumer at large, creating a message that is easily understood and can be followed by large groups of people is a perpetual challenge. People are all different and a message developed for the largest common denominator consumer may not be applicable to many. Because IFIC is a company funded by its member companies it is important to never demonize any food, drink, or product. Positives much be emphasized at all times, so the message should always be what to do, not what someone should not be doing. It can be difficult as a nutrition professional to ignore personal opinions and thoughts when writing, but is imperative to being unbiased.
As shown above, my target audiences vary massively from week to week. At first it was a challenge to find my voice in order to send the message I want to be received, but with practice it is now one of the first things I begin to think about when I write. My takeaway from all this is to consider the needs, lifestyle, and desires of who you want to reach and find the common ground where communication can begin. If you can find your voice, your audience will listen.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice overview of your various supervised practice rotations and the importance of selecting the appropriate medium to reach different target populations!