Think of the books, music, movies, television programs, or even political speeches that have resonated with you. They connected with you on an almost (or maybe completely) emotional level. They may have even motivated you to act on what you felt. Entertainers, writers, artists, and politicians only create this resonance when they connect with their audience. They understand, on some fundamental level, how you feel, what you want, and what you enjoy.
The content on your webpage isn’t so different. It’s all about reaching your audience and satisfying some concern, need, or curiosity. The freelance writers working with you have the difficult task of connecting with an audience that they may not be as familiar with as you are. But when they successfully reach your audience, writers act as a connection between you and your audience. And by knowing your audience, writers can point that drawn-in audience back to you. For a writer to do the job you’re paying him or her for, they need to know a few things about your audience.
Image via Flickr by sk8geek
As a business owner, you have the difficult task of both retaining current customers and expanding to reach more consumers. You have your loyal customers, and you need to keep them satisfied, while also making an effort to broaden your horizons and make new friends. Knowing your audience allows you to do both by cultivating what rhetoricians would call “identification.” When an audience feels you understand and can relate to them (or, in other words, when you attempt to show that you identify with them), they can identify with you or with the idea you’re presenting.
Identification comes as you recognize and acknowledge values that the audience also recognizes. By doing so, the audience feels like you understand them, which also makes them more willing to consider whether or not your services can meet their needs. Identification is the core of that resonance you experience while watching a movie or reading a book. You see some part of you, or something you value, in a character or situation, and that identification draws you into the experience.
But in order to identify with an audience, or to make an audience want to identify with you, a writer needs to know the values that your audience holds, and what values that you are attempting to convey. Here are some things you can pass onto your writers to give them an idea of those values.
If you haven’t already, you need to identify which values you want your writers to attempt to reach in your audience. Your target audience will have different values (but not lesser values) than other potential audiences. For example, politicians especially reach out to audiences that they know they can connect with and their rhetoric emphasizes the values of that certain audience. While the values your writers convey hopefully won’t spark as much opposition as a politician would, they should focus on identifying with specific audiences.
Who are you trying to reach? Stay-at-home dads and moms? Nine-to-five office employees? Dawn-to-dusk farmers? None of these demographics are above or below the other, and each of them likely share many of the same values, but many other values will also differ. And identifying with the unique values of a target audience is where the force of the writing will come.
But will focusing so much on a single target audience exclude too many others? While it’s true that spotlighting certain values will take emphasis away from others, a target audience doesn’t cause a writer to argue that some values are superior to others. Instead, a target audience focuses the content and ensures that it reaches whom you want it to reach.
People will seek out the content on your website for a variety of reasons. Many of these reasons will be tied down to a specific concern, whether that concern be a problem someone is facing, or a simple matter of expanding their knowledge. There are few better ways to relate and identify with someone than to prove that you understand someone’s issues.
You won’t be able to predict every reason that audiences will come to your website, but you can help writers anticipate a handful of possibilities. Is your audience stressed about saving money? Or are they more concerned with their health and well-being? By providing your writers with an idea of the needs you want the content to meet, you can focus content, retain current readers and consumers, and expand your reader base by proving to new readers that you understand, and can satisfy, their concerns.
Age, gender, and lifestyle demographics can play a significant role in the identification process. Demographics can affect everything from whether or not your writer uses a more formal or informal tone, to what concerns the writer addresses. But writing toward demographics can also be intimidating, because writers usually don’t want to make broad assumptions simply based on gender. After all, just because the target audience is female doesn’t remotely mean that the writer should only address topics that would be appealing to a stay-at-home mom.
However, perhaps you find that the majority of visitors to your blog page are stay-at-home moms concerned about the health of their children. Awareness of that demographic allows writers to focus content and reach your target audience. Knowing demographics also allows you to determine other audiences that you may want your content to reach. Then the content on your page can bring in both stay-at-home moms and businesswomen.
Your freelance writers are surely capable of communicating the basics of the services your provide or the ideas you stand behind. But the more writers know about your audience, the more they will be able to communicate the practicality and versatility of your services and ideas as they relate to each to individual that you’re trying to reach. Once they have a target audience, common issues, and demographics to work with, your writers can identify with your audience well enough that you can become anything from the friendly neighbor to the trusted authority.
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