This post was translated and adapted from “Weniger schlecht über IT schreiben” by Christina Czeschik and Matthias Lindhorst
The next step — and arguably the most important step — is understanding your audience.
When we sit down to write, it is all too easy to get wrapped up in yourself and what you want to say, that we forget that we’re writing, presumably, so someone will actually read what we write.
If we want people to actually read what we write, we need to understand who our readers are — and write in a way that speaks to them.
How do you get to know your readers?
Readers are people, and people are fickle. But you should be able to get a general idea of the topics your readers enjoy and the issues they care about. If you can pin this down, you’ll do a much better job of writing content that brings value to their lives.
How old are your readers? Gender? Nationality?
Men and women; 20-40 years old; mostly (although not all) native English speakers
What kind of educational background do your readers have? How much do they earn? Where do they stand in the corporate hierarchy?
Predominantly degree holders. They don’t hold a managerial position, but they earn enough to treat themselves to an exciting new gadget every now and then
What do your readers value? What don’t they value?
They care about health, and want to learn more about privacy and how to protect their data. They aren’t interested in learning how to hack devices or data.
What technology do your users use?
New smartphones; fitness devices and apps
What triggers strong emotions in your reader? (i.e. fear, anger, impatiences, happiness, pride)
They are impatient when looking at unclear and lengthy technical texts; happy when testing the new function of a new piece of hardware or app.
What kinds of things might your readers say?
“I couldn’t finish the article during my lunch break, I was pulled away by an important call”; “Is there an app for this?”
How do you find the answers to these questions?
Honestly, it depends on how much time you can (and want to) invest.
For a one-time guest post on an acquaintance’s blog, you might not need to bend over backwards figuring out exactly who your readers might be.
But if you’re writing the text of a brochure that you want to push into the hands of potential customers for the next two years, you might way to spend a little extra time researching your target audience.
Here are a couple of useful sources you could consider:
- Forums and online communities that your target audience participates in
- Comment sections in blogs and online magazines
- Mailing lists that may also be targeting your readers
- Potential readers’ social media profiles (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Xing)
- Search for relative keywords on Twitter
- If you have a blog or website, check data analytics (i.e. Google Analytics, Piwik)
Final step: buy a rubber duck
Or a stuffed elephant, or a potted plant — whatever suits your fancy.
After you have your inanimate object at the ready, give it a name and a personality that fits your target audience.
According to the example above, let’s say our duck’s name is Josh. He is 29 years old and works as an accountant at a non-profit. After a long day at work, he enjoys watching sports. And he has a problem: he recently bought a smart watch so he can get a better control over his fitness, but the device isn’t synchronizing to his smart phone. He can’t afford to buy an expensive new smart watch — so he gets online to do some research about which product gives him the most bang for his buck.
Talk to your rubber ducky — now Josh — about the different kinds of wearable technology options that are on the market. And when you write your article, write it for Josh.
Every text should be a bridge between yourself and the readers. A bridge needs to have a clear beginning and a clear end — which means you need to know exactly where you land and where your readers find yourself.
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