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April 19, 2010

Content Boot Camp: Performing For Your Audience

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Recent SEO Newsletter articles focused on creating meaningful Web copy for your target audience. Through a miniseries of weekly posts, I’ll dig deeper to explore vital steps in a well-rounded content creation process. The exercises I’ll share will help shape your writing before you even put those fingers to the keyboard. Find out how to clarify the brand, its audiences and selling points so you can create the most compelling content for your online readers.

Theatre Royal Panorama, Brighton, UK

Performing for your audience – what does it mean? If you put on a production of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and only invited people who like comedy à la “Family Guy,” would you still perform the classical version of the play or put a modern twist on it? Once you understand who your audience is and what it wants, you’ll know just how to connect.

After years of writing on behalf of the experts, I’ve compiled a list of questions I always ask before writing new Web content. Sometimes the experts know the answers, sometimes they don’t. But, a little digging to uncover the most relevant data will go a long way.

Identify Your Participants

You may have multiple audiences for just one product or service. For example, you may find that you are writing to potential and current clients and consumers all in one Web site. Or, you might find you have very different types of people that benefit from the same product or service. The important thing to remember is that if you have more than one audience for a Web site, the copy can be a balancing act.

Brainstorm a list of your potential audiences. In “Building a Brand with Your Online Voice” (March SEOToolSet newsletter), it points out that sometimes your audience reveals itself through the knowledge of what the brand stands for.

For example, a night club would likely garner all walks of life, but understanding that the brand’s identity is about leisure and excitement would infer that the common trait among its audiences is the value they place on leisure and excitement.

Once you’ve got a list of potential audiences, get busy with research. You’ll have to play both investigator and psychologist as you balance demographics with psychographics to try to figure out what motivates those people.

If you don’t have access to thorough market research or analytics, a good place to start for more general demographics information is some of the .gov Web sites that host information on population data. One such Web site is the Bureau of Labor statistics at www.bls.gov. Another is the U.S. Census Bureau at www.census.gov.

Then, use your common sense to dissect what you know about those kinds of people. Trying to determine and generalize an audience’s persona can be a guessing game. But having a basic understanding of a group’s characteristics is an important first step in writing copy that speaks to them. For example, how would you write differently to a Gen Y crowd than you would to Baby Boomers?

Drill Down to Tone Up Your Copy

Figuring out your target audience is just the beginning. Next, create a questionnaire that aims to extract meaningful information. When tackling content for any brand, it’s all about getting to the bottom of things. Sometimes, the initial answer just isn’t enough. Keep excavating until the real gem reveals itself.

Some topics you may want to address include:

  • What is the age, gender, education level, income, location and so forth of your audience(s) and what does each one of those attributes say about those people?
  • What matters most to members of your target audience? What types of personalities do they have? What are their values? What motivates them? What keeps them awake at night? How can you relate your product, service or organization to those types of people?
  • What is the main reason the audience(s) would want to engage in your company, product or service?

If you’re a business owner, you’re going to be the expert on the product or service. And, you might just have the luxury of actually knowing and speaking with your clients or consumers to gain insight into these questions on a more intimate level.

If you’re not the expert on the matter, find the people who are. Check out “Tackle SEO Web Content Writing with Ease” in this month’s SEO Newsletter for ways to gather the information you need from the people who can help you the most.

Next week, we’ll talk about identifying the product or service’s competitive advantage in order to sell it effectively.

Content Boot Camp Series

Part 1: Performing For Your Audience
Part 2: Your Company Is Great … So What?
Part 3: Send the Right Messages
Part 4: Run a Mile in Your Reader’s Shoes

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