Reports – Determining the Audience

A report is always written with an audience in mind. The terms of reference very often make it clear who will read the report. In some cases it may be just report writer’s immediate boss who needs information on some aspects of work with which he is connected. At other times it may be a number of readers to whom the report will be circulated. Generally speaking, it is observed that a report has any of the following six kinds of audience:

1. Superior officers
2. Colleagues, and counterparts in other organizations
3. Subordinate employees
4. Other organizations engaged in similar activities
5. Share holders
6. Customers and members of the public

If the writer’s report is based on instructions from an individual, it would not be difficult to figure out its objective. If, however, the audience is large and varied, the writer should find out carefully what they know and what they do not know. The difference in their training, experience and background should determine the presentation and style of report writer’s report. To overcome the difficulty of catering to the needs of a varied readership, keep in view the people who are farthest in knowledge from the subject of report. For example, if one is a sales representative and his report is going to be read by the sales officers, the chief sales executive and the managing director, he should keep in view while writing; the sales officers and the chief executives are expected to have background information about what is written in the report.

Remember that a report is a piece of communication and can be considered successful only if it produces in the reader the desired response. One way of testing this is to place report writer him self in the position of the reader and then examine the effect it produces. In this respect one should make an attempt to emulate a good salesman. What does he do? He looks at things from the customer’s point of view by placing himself in their position. This is a difficult task, no doubt, and requires a lot of patience and flexibility of approach. When you do this, you may well find that you have to add quite a few details to complete the picture or to discard a lot of material you so assiduously collected after spending hours of valuable time. But then it is part of the report-writing game to have the courage to do so when you discover that it would add to the effectiveness of the report.

After the purpose and scope have been specified and the audience determined the next step is to gather the relevant data. Before you set about this task, you must know the various methods of collecting information and the sources from which you can gather the relevant material. Many reports turn out to be ineffective because the writer did not use the proper method consult the right documents, approach the right people or secure the right answers. Recognition of sources of information and culling the relevant data are essential for writing a good report.

There are a number of methods and sources for collecting data. Choose the ones relevant to report writer purpose. We may place them into following categories:


1. Personal Observation
2. Telephone Interview
3. Personal Interview
4. Questionnaires


1. Internal Records
2. Library.