Six Pointers For Creating Memorable Content And Holding Your Audience’s Interest
I am the Vice President of Global Communications at Pure Storage, a Silicon Valley based technology company.
Your customers’ attention is a valuable but limited resource — and they are already skeptics of vendor-driven content. Every day they are inundated with content in their inboxes and news feeds, and they can only absorb so much, especially from companies vying for their business. How can you make sure your company’s message is one that is valued and coveted?
Simply be thoughtful and strategic about the content you create. Demonstrate that you understand your audience and what they’re going through before you try to sell to them. Before you write, remember that readers are predisposed to question vendor content, and you only get so many chances to impress them. The more preparation and research you do, the more likely you are to have a successful outcome. Follow these best practices to create content that connects with your customers and shows that you know their time is precious.
1. Use An Outside-In Approach
Brands and content creators often write from their own point of view and then shift focus to their readers — but this is backward. You have to win them over first, capturing their hearts and minds, before you can offer advice. How can you find a solution if you don’t show that you understand the problem?
Put yourself in your readers’ shoes first, and only talk about your company as the answer to their problems. What are people talking about? What motivates them? What do they worry about? How do they impress their leaders? How can you help? Find the right balance of perspectives in your content, using the 70-30 rule as a guide: 70% outside-in and 30% inside-out.
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2. Do The Research
Once you have an idea which topics your audience is interested in, do more research to develop your unique contribution to the discussion. Research provides you with depth and various points of view in your content. Evaluate end user surveys, read up on the latest personas for your target audience and understand what the industry analysts are saying about the space. How can you use this information to reflect your customers’ experiences in the content you create? Where can you best provide value for where they are right now?
3. Curate Trusted Subject Matter Experts
Vet your ideas with subject matter experts (SMEs) who have the pulse on your target audience and will give your content credibility. Any reader who is also an expert in the field will immediately recognize their expertise. Even if you have deep knowledge of a topic, you can still create more robust and useful content by including diverse expert viewpoints. Every single industry, from healthcare to cybersecurity, has experts who use their own language and specialized vocabulary. Find SMEs who speak the language that will land with your readers and help you find your relevance in what’s happening in the world.
4. Focus On A Single Purpose
Identify one important message to convey, and ensure that every point you make ties back to this single purpose. Don’t fall into the “more is better” trap and try to squeeze every idea you have into one piece of content. If you want your audience to pay attention and take action, tie all of your points to your anchor message.
A good friend once told me that good messaging is about “what’s in frame and what’s in focus,” and it has stayed with me. Both are important and have a symbiotic relationship. What’s in focus is your most salient point, but what’s in frame provides the necessary conditions or circumstances to illustrate that point. Every time I present this idea, I show a picture to illustrate the interdependence of focus (the people) and frame (the context). If people are wearing ski suits and goggles, standing in front of a mountain, the audience immediately understands the focus and frame of the photo. But remove the mountain in the background, and the ski suits and goggles are now confusing and out of context.
5. Balance Consistency And Refinement
Your customers need to hear the same message multiple times before they understand and remember it. This is even more true now that in the current media landscape, everything is blurring together. People are seeing an endless mix of business, politics, personal interest and world news in their feeds, and to stand out, your messaging must remain consistent — and a bit of repetition isn’t a bad thing. Use words with impact, and draw the reader in by talking about their pain points and showing that you understand their viewpoint.
At the same time, don’t let your messaging get stale. As the market evolves and your customer needs change, you have to continue refining your messages to make sure they are still relevant. Notice that I use the word “refine” versus “change.” This is a gradual and ongoing process, not a complete overhaul. You don’t have to crumple up the proverbial paper and start from scratch each time. Simply keep asking questions: Are these the right messages for our audience? Do we need to make tweaks, or are they effective as is? What has changed with customer environments?
6. Create A ‘Content Center Of Excellence’
There is very little that is more important than content, but the ability to systematically access the content, the lifeblood of comms teams, is even more critical. Give your content a proper home where teams can find it easily at any time. In our company, we call this the “Content Center of Excellence,” a hub that houses and organizes every piece of content we create. It’s open to a network of content creators and those who leverage content, and it encourages message consistency on a global scale. When content is searchable and stored in one location, it’s easy to audit, edit or update what you have before developing anything new.
Your customers are both busy and savvy. They are wary of yet another self-promotional company competing for their attention. Get them to care about what you have to say by writing about what motivates them. Put in the time to plan your writing strategy, and you will create content that has real meaning to your readers.