You talking to me?

As promised back in my Blogging Basics post on Communication, today I want to talk about who you’re addressing your blog posts to. Knowing your audience is fundamental to knowing what you want to say, and how you should say it.

Take this post for example; as I write it I am imagining it being read by small business owners looking for help in creating better blog content for themselves. The language I choose to express myself will be different with that audience in mind than it would be if I was addressing other writers; and different again if I was talking about this to schoolkids as part of my work as a children’s author.

So, how do you know who you’re talking to? If you’ve been running your blog or business for a while, then the chances are that you already know who your readers and customers are. If you’re starting a new venture, then you’ve probably thought about the people who you’d like to do business with.

If you haven’t? Then your first step should be to get clear about that. Read a book, or talk to a business consultant or a marketing expert. The only way that you can make someone feel like you’re really trying to communicate with them is if you tailor what you want to say to that audience.

For example, I write blog posts for a number of different clients. One is aimed at IT professionals – when I’m writing for them I know it’s OK to make Star Wars references. I’d leave those out if I were writing an article for the blog targetted at women who work in financial services. When I’m writing about coffee? I’m communing with hipsters. Cat Care? That’s Millenials with fur-babies.

If I cracked Star Wars jokes to high-level female professionals (and trust me, Sci-Fi references leak out of me at the most inopportune moments), there’s every chance I’d alienate the reader. Of course, that’s a generalisation, but as you can’t write a blog post that’s tailored to each reader, that’s the best we can do.

So, knowing your audience means keeping them in mind when you express yourself. If your audience is highly educated, you can pull out the 50p words. For young professionals in a hurry, keep it brief and to the point. You get the drift.

But perhaps more important than knowing how to address your audience is knowing what you want to say. That takes some thought for two reasons:

1 – The chances are you’re passionate about what you do, and that you geek out on the details of it. But if I spent a post patting myself on the back of my clever use of alliteration, subjugated clauses, and fresh similes…well, most of you have fallen asleep already, right? That’s why sales and marketing types will tell you to talk about benefits, not features. If I tell people my blog posts are created to be easy to understand, engaging and to lead the reader on a journey to discover the product or service? That’s a lot more relevant.

2 – You may have become nonchalant about what you do. You do it every day, so it doesn’t seem so special. You forget to tell people these things because you’ve come to take them for granted. I was talking to a client about working for them. I loved what they did. I told them that and explained that they were changing the world. The client looked surprised, blinked a few times and smiled, ‘Yes, I suppose we are. I hadn’t thought of it like that!’

Customer Engagement Venn Diagram

So, the ideal content lies in the overlap between what you want to say and what your audience needs to hear. How do you identify that?

What are the questions that people most often ask about your business? When you’re talking to customers, what things do they need to know? Make a list, of these questions – are they big enough questions for a blog post by themselves? Or are there recurring themes that could be clustered together into a post.

You can also take inspiration from other blogs. Look at what’s being written about in your industry, and in others. That might feel a bit like cheating, and I’m certainly not suggesting that you copy content, or even ideas. But seeing what other people talk about will give you a steer towards what you want to say yourself.

You can also gain inspiration from industry news. Set up a few google alerts for keywords that are important to you. You’ll then get daily emails telling you what’s new and what the wider conversation is in your subject area.

And I’ll end with an example of how to get more idea of what people want to hear and ask a question: What would you like the next blogging basics post to be about? Creating great titles? Opening lines? Something else entirely?

In all seriousness, do let me know what you think of this article in the comments below. I’d love to hear from readers, and see any examples of you putting these techniques into practice!


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