There are few things as disappointing as sitting down to your computer, downing your third cup of coffee as you sit there late into the night cranking up content piece after content piece, only to have it hit the internet to a chorus of crickets. What happened? You put everything you had into that content, poured out your heart, as well as all the information you know about a particular topic. What more could people want? The truth is, a lot more.
Ratcheting the most out of your content pieces is not usually how one likes to think of their work. Setting yourself and your audience up for success is a much better way to think about how you approach the task of delivering compelling content, leading to clicks and interaction. That's why today we're looking at why you're messaging is falling flat with your audience. Let's get started.
Knowledge, EMpathy and Voice
Let's call the above writer, John. There are a myriad of things that could have gone wrong for him in the publishing process, but he is thinking about the copy. He's shocked the audience didn't like what he had to say. After all, he shared every bit of information he could possibly think of about his product. He got down into the nitty-gritty, the things he would want to know if he was going to buy his product. But then when he sent it out into the world, nobody seemed to get all that jazzed about his content.
Being self-conscious can be a death knell for anyone in their job, but it seems to be particularly defeating in the writing world. This is where it is crucial to understand your audience, as crafting language for the right type of engagement is paramount in getting the reader to read. Suppose you were writing to an engaged audience of doctors, in that case, facts speak well; if it were a group of teenage music enthusiasts, comparative knowledge lends a hand; perhaps your piece speaks to a community of artists might find heavy visuals to be the glue for the copy — there are as many strategies for specialized content as there are audiences, and you have to speak to them directly.
In general, most pitch oriented content does not resonate with an audience when information trumps emotion. The decision-making center of the brain starts with feelings and moves onto knowledge and logic second. Even in shorter engaging content, elements of pitch strategy within your copy can deliver the engagement to keep reading. That's why tactical portions of articles are essential to reach an audience; you've got to tap into their emotional desires. While product information and details are essential, they aren't what will get people revved up and clicking the purchase button. And while John's knowledge is beneficial, it's not going to inspire a lot of engagement with his audience.
Engaging the Audience
So let's say John reassesses his strategy. He decides to keep some of the higher impact details, but really knocks it out of the park when he speaks directly to what his audience cares about. John delves in and speaks right to the heart, tugging at their emotions and trying his best to identify with their values. This time, when he hits the publish button, he's positive of the glorious response he'll receive and prepares himself for interaction on the article.
It doesn't take long to realize that he has once again somehow missed the mark. John has made the common mistake that many writers are guilty of, thinking in terms of what will bring the reader to interact, instead of what will take engagement to the reader. He assumed he knew who his audience was and what they cared about, without knowing for sure, and then put it out there for them to find.
Aside from being a tad arrogant, even when entirely unintentional, the idea of you being you allowing people the opportunity to flock to your authenticity is about the furthest thing from reality. This idea that if you put something out into the ether, thousands of people just waiting to hear what you have to say is a load of... well, it's not true in any way. If a writer has ever worked with a publisher, they come to understand how crafting something to meet the marketplace is as calculated as any high-level marketing campaign. In the same way, content calculated on general ideas or inspecific criteria will almost always fall flat.
If you fail to have a grasp on your audience, no amount of messaging will matter. This grasp can't be a loose one that you've formulated based on assumptions and presuppositions. It takes real research and digging in to find out who it is that you are speaking to exactly.
It's important to note that this doesn't mean figuring out your reader's age bracket, household income, or gender; identifying your audience goes much deeper than these a few shallow data points. Persona building is always an excellent discipline for understanding your audience. Still, you don't need to typecast your audience as much as you need to understand the engagement points they're looking for. You'll want to find out what lights their fire, what drives them, the things they care about, and the things they don't care about. Having a better understanding of these kinds of values will help you speak directly to what your audience cares about most, helping them connect with you and your business and feel good about investing in it.
Using the Right Tools
So, quite frankly, you may not be using the tools that are available to their maximum benefit. If it sounds complicated, that's because it is. With solutions like geo-fencing, or cookie tracking apps, that provide actionable insights on consumer behavior, competitive share, media effectiveness, and market trends, it's easy to think you can rely on the almighty algorithm to TCB. But it doesn't have to be rocket science, and there's no need to make things harder on yourself.
These days, there are an abundance of tools available and ready at your fingertips to speak directly to your audience and ask them outright. Facebook and Instagram have made this especially easy. Their quiz features, polling applications, and even just basic comments allow you to speak directly to your audience and ask them what you want to know. You'll be surprised how willing people are to share with you. Most people love talking about themselves, it's part of human nature, and if you can tap into that, you can access a trove of information that is waiting for your interpretation.
One final piece that can act like honey, dripped by your five-year-old on the breakfast table, rather than honey to the bees, is producing content that is inconsistent with the brand values that your company represents. It should be said, all of these strategies and tactics are only helpful if you yourself have a grasp on the identity of your own company. As we know from Simon Sinek's Start with Why, your engagement, disconnected from the value that your brand presents, has a very slim margin of success.
If John does the work, puts the time into the research, delves into who his audiences and what they care about, it doesn't do him any good if he doesn't know the same thing about himself. How can he know if the values he's uncovered in his audience relate to his own, if he's not even sure what his own are? That's why before you undertake content creation, it is vital to understand your own company and brand.
At PRIME, we'd assert that it's vital to know that before you do anything, whether it's creating a website, starting an Instagram account, or even having a business card printed. You can hire a professional to help you figure these things out, or you can do the work on your own. Either way, your results will always be better when you have undertaken these tasks.
There are endless resources online in the form of quizzes, take-home workbooks, and tutorials all created to help you discover the identity behind your company. You could also go through a more in-depth method like Six-Sigma, the EOS System, or the Balanced Scorecard (among others). Having a grasp on your brand will allow you to ensure that your own values resonate with your audience. And when this happens, it's nearly impossible for your message to miss the mark.