Three essentials for audience-centred content

If every online post is a drop in the ocean, how can you ensure that yours creates a splash? What will make the difference in terms of it being seen and engaged with… shared, even?

Oliver ParsonsEditor

Information overload, excessive stimulation and rapidly shortening attention spans – these are the demons of the digital era. Online content needs to have true value to do battle against them, to rise above audience saturation or skepticism.

Originality, quality and imagination are vital, of course. So is a well-planned distribution strategy encompassing social media, search and email. But before any of that even begins to matter, you have to have a clear picture of the audience.

Here are three fundamentals of audience analysis that we try to stick to – before we write a word, take a photo, or shoot a single frame of video.

1. Identify the need

There’s a phrase that bounces around content marketing agencies: Utility + Entertainment = Attention. If you can fulfill a need that you know exists for your audience, in a way that is enjoyable for them, you’ll earn their attention.

But to deliver on that, you need to know how to be useful. And you can only determine that following deep consideration of your audience. What do they care about? What challenges are they facing right now? In what ways are they likely to be affected by whatever it is that you ultimately want to talk to them about?

These questions must be answered, fully and thoroughly, via research, workshops or by applying common sense and experience. In many ways, it’s not important how you get to the answers. What’s essential is that you establish a clear picture of what matters to the audience, and build content in response to that picture.

2. Audience groups: less is more

It’s tempting to spread the net wide. Why limit your thinking just to audience A, when you can throw in audiences B, C and D, too?

But if it’s challenging to be relevant to one audience, it’s even harder to be relevant to several audiences, each of which will have its own distinct priorities, interests and needs. In the real world, of course, there’s always more than one audience, and there may even be areas of overlap between them, but by putting them into an order of priority – primary, secondary and tertiary – and then planning content and resources accordingly, your budget can make the greatest possible impact where it matters most.

3. Distribution first, content second

There’s no point in creating an amazing piece of content and then deciding how to distribute it. Far better to start with a clear idea of the best distribution channels for your audience, and build the content from there. For example:

The idea of a single piece of content naturally finding its audience is increasingly irrelevant. Instead, each item of content has to be its own micro-campaign, planned with complementary assets and activity across a variety of other channels.

It’s only possible to make that campaign – and its content – effective by knowing your audience inside out. Pause for a moment, listen, then cut through the noise.