Why Knowing Your Audience Is the Secret to Writing and Developing the Best Content for Your Business
Writing is hard, even for professional writers.
Lately, I've been hearing from people who want to promote their business or what they do through content marketing like LinkedIn articles and blogs, but they are struggling to find their voice and grappling with writer's block. They're questioning everything, including the tone they use and the topics they choose.
Here's what I ask them: Who is your audience?
They don't know.
But you have to know. It's the very first thing you have to know.
In writing this column, I know I'm writing for entrepreneurs and business owners and those who yearn to be or plan to be entrepreneurs and business owners. My columns need to be helpful, informative and actionable to this group of people.
Not everyone has editors to remind them who they're writing for and make sure they stay in their lane. If you are unsure of your audience for something you are writing or planning to write, ask yourself some questions.
Where will your article appear?
Is it on your company blog? Your LinkedIn page? Do you have the opportunity to submit an article to a trade publication or local business journal?
If others have contributed to your company blog, take a look at the posts that have been the most well received. Hopefully this gives you an idea of what topics, structure and tone resonate. If comments are enabled, what have readers said or asked and what can you tell about who they are: customers, fans, women, men, young, old?
Same goes for an outside publication. Do some homework. Do articles have a formal and technical sound or strike a more casual and conversational tone? What topics have been popular? How can you bring your own spin to a hot topic?
If it's your own LinkedIn and you've never written and posted articles to you profile, consider who your connections are and what they are interested in. But chances are it's a pretty diverse group, and you might be writing for a subset of your connections, so you might ask yourself...
What do you want readers to do with your article?
Do you want readers to hire you or buy your products or services? You might include a call to action, directing readers on how to download an e-book to learn more or schedule a free consultation. Or do you want to impress others in your field? You probably want to cite primary or secondary research or back up your views with quotes third-party experts. A more formal tone might be in order.
What does your audience read?
Imagine you are a doctor. What do your patients read? What do your colleagues read? Now imagine you are writing about the role diet and exercise plays in the management of certain diseases. How you write about that topic for "Prevention" magazine or WebMD would be different than how you'd approach it for "The Journal of the American Medical Association" or "The New England Journal of Medicine."
Considering your audience's reading habits gives you insight on a lot, including how technical or plain-spoken to be, how long (or short) your article should be and what sort of structure or format -- a long narrative, a Q&A, a bulleted listicle, as examples -- is appropriate.
When in doubt, keep it simple.
I often find business people feel that how they write and how they speak have to be different. They keep it casual for in-person meetings and presentations. But they feel their writing should be more formal to prove that they are smart and know what they're doing. And then they wonder why what they've written doesn't sound like them. Please, I beg you. Keep it simple.
When in doubt, it never hurts to be plain spoken or to write as you speak. It's warmer, and people want to do business with people they can relate to.
Funny but I've recently been working with and getting to know someone who happens to be a plain language expert. Deborah Bosley, owner of The Plain Language Group in Charlotte, North Carolina, helps companies, including financial services firms, produce writing that is easy for everyone to understand.
And I love what she says: "Nobody ever complained that something was too easy to understand."
By Amy George By George Communications