The Mind Of A Writer – Part Ii: Engaging The Unknown Reader
How do we create content that engages readers?
The key to crafting any kind of content is about knowing the audience and making your readers feel understood. As a technical writing company, we have to be sympathetic to multiple audiences, even the ones we don’t know.
First things first: you can’t please everyone
We’ve all heard the old adage: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time…” you know the rest. That truism is critical when it comes to writing about a client’s product or service—although it may appeal to a wide audience, nothing we could say about it will reach everyone. As writers for hire, our job is to take your message and make it feel right to your target audience. This means limiting that audience enough to get a clear message across or, better yet, diversifying the message to reach subsets of your wider audience.
This is true even with technical information or training manuals. That reader is thumbing through your content for a reason—and if you don’t signal that you see them, they’re not going to get the message—or at least not the one you want them to.
It’s not you; it’s them—so put your audience first
The next thing you’ll run into with content creation is that most of the audience is not interested in when your business started or how well you can do a service (at least, not at first). Before anything else, they want to know you care about them, understand their problem, and know how to solve it. This means that your content (whether creative or technical) should meet the audience where they are, rather than expecting them to come to you. This subtle difference can turn an individual into an advocate.
So how do you that? Engaging an audience is about touching them on a personal level as much as makes sense for the piece. Communication begins when a connection is made. And this connection comes through tone, style, and word choice. That’s what makes contract technical writers so valuable: our ability to navigate this terrain with empathy and acumen.
Clarity is king
The last secret to engaging your audience through the creation of content is to ACT (Always Communicate Transparently). There are no secrets here. We told you that writing well is all about communicating, and that has to be done with a focus on clear information development. Flow of information, sequencing of details, and even order of operations can be a rat’s nest of obfuscation, all too easy a space to misconstrue meaning or omit valuable information, if you’re not trained in shedding light on the unknown for the reader.
A huge benefit we bring to our clients is being able to “think like an outsider with inside knowledge.” Similar to our previous post about subject matter, we mean that we can create content that answers the questions most insiders, like business owners and subject matter experts, would not even think to ask on behalf of the outsiders. This act of merging inside and outside views is significant to the reader because it shows you care about where they’re coming from. And that care for them makes your information the most important thing. Now you can see how keeping the audience in mind, even the one you didn’t know about, can create endless links to potential customers and fans of your company.