Before you can do much planning for your content strategy, you need to know who you’re writing to. This is your audience. I’ve written about this before, so much of what you read here is a re-hashing of that topic. However, this time I’m focused on understanding your audience for the purposes of developing an overall content strategy.
Having an understanding of your audience impacts your writing style, voice, and the methods of communication. You may be writing to engineers, production workers, millennials purchasing products on a website, doctors, young mothers looking for the latest information on raising children, or elementary students. Just picturing each of these different audiences gives a pretty good idea of how your communication style needs to be aligned with your audience. You just don’t write with the same voice when communicating scientific information to a doctor as when explaining the benefits of eyeliner tattoo to a millennial. And you probably wouldn’t use the same delivery strategy either. One calls for a published article and the other most likely calls for Facebook and Instagram posts, and most likely a video. There are delivery strategies that apply across the board. For example, a blog can be created to appeal to just about any audience as long as the correct voice is used.
To truly understand who you’re writing to, it’s very helpful to define your audience by doing an audience analysis. If you’re selling or supporting a product, this is sometimes called a customer analysis or user profile.
These are a few things to consider when doing an audience analysis:
- Basic demographics. This includes information such as whether your audience is native to the language you’re writing in. It also includes the reader’s age, gender, and other basic information that gives you an idea of who will be reading your content.
- Education and background. Writing aimed at an engineer is much different than writing aimed at a recent high-school graduate. And academic writing has a style all its own with specific requirements.
- Industry. Be sure to know if your reader is in a particular industry. Writing something for the end-user of a product is different than writing for a designer or engineer.
- Lifestyle. How does your reader spend their time? Are you writing to students? New parents? Fashionistas? Maybe your reader is a technical geek in a given field and wants all the technical details. Or maybe your reader doesn’t want to bother with all that and just wants a high-level overview of a topic.
- Experience with subject matter. Are you writing for someone who is completely unfamiliar with your subject matter? If so, you will need to provide much more background information than if you are writing to someone who has extensive experience.
One of the best ways to do an audience analysis is to interview people representative of the people who will read your content. Besides details such as those listed above, ask them how they prefer to get information. Do they like something that’s searchable? If so, your best bet is a web-based knowledge system. Do they want something they can read on a tablet or print out and read in their leisure? Then a book-based PDF format might suit the bill. Do they prefer something they can watch and listen to? You may want to create short videos to demonstrate concepts or show how to accomplish tasks.
The important thing is to take the time to think about this before you begin a project. The worst surprise is to spend hours, days, or weeks creating an online information system only to find out that your audience is a group of engineers who just want a damn book they can print out and read while they “relax” at the end of the day.
If you want to know more about content strategy, see our other posts in this series:
- Content Strategy—What Is It?
- Content Strategy—Do You Know Why You Need One?
- Content Strategy—It’s Part of Effective UI/UX
- Content Strategy—Your Blog Needs One
- Content Strategy—Types of Content
- Content Strategy—Terminology
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