The art and science of reaching an audience

Is your message reaching your audience, and making the right impact? If not, it’s time to rethink what you’re trying to say and, more importantly, how you’re saying it.

Are you talking into a void? Is anyone listening or do they really understand what you’re on about?

Content marketing can be very effective, but only if the content gets noticed and motivates action.

There is an art to engaging a reader – a compelling title, an interesting opening line and a flair for telling stories. But there is always a predictable science and psychology behind why someone engages with you. While the message is important, the way it’s delivered (the channel, format, style) and the purpose it serves the reader (its relevance) is paramount.

To begin, don’t focus on your message. Your audience is your starting point. Always ask ‘who is my audience and what are they looking for?’

The way you deliver your message depends on your audience. There I was, tearing my hair out because my four-year-old son seemed incapable of listening to anything I said. So I crouched down at his level, looked him in the eye and spoke in words he understood – and to my amazement, he listened.

This little parenting victory is also great advice for content marketers. Your content should not just be interesting, you need to deliver it the way your audience wants it. This means being where your audience is, rather than expecting they will come to you, and creating content that they want to consume.

Relevance is the key to successful communication. We live in a 2.7sec economy. Our attention span is shorter than a four-year-old. Your audience decides in an instant if the content is worthy of their interest.

Being relevant means being interested, rather than being interesting. Your audience can only be interested in you if you are interested in (and understand) them. It means finding common ground, common interests, issues and goals. It’s about finding what makes your audience tick.

You can’t rely on demographics and market segmentation. You need to take some time to get to know them. Ask yourself, what do they want? Why would they care? If you’re not sure what they like, value or where they find inspiration, why not ask them?

How to get to know your audience?

Ask for their opinion. You could ask a simple yes/no straw poll. Or dig a little deeper to find out if they feel strongly about a certain issue.

Ask your audience what is important to them. Try asking a question that requires an easy answer, such as what is something they can’t live or work without. Or, on a deeper level, ask them to name something they would like to change/celebrate.  

Ask for an update. Is there an issue relevant to your industry, or an emerging disruptive trend? You could ask if anyone in your audience has experience it first-hand and what was the impact.

Be a Problem/Solution finder. We all have challenges to overcome. Find out if your audience shares any common problems that you or others in the community may be able to solve.

Reader question: Have you ever learned something about your audience that surprised you?