Worrying about your audience--blessing or curse?

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“If you have an over-preoccupation with perception and trying to please people’s expectations, then you can go mad.”*Self-help gurus and successful artists alike tell us not to worry about what others think and to focus instead on meeting our own high standards. In their view, the audience is a concept that is best ignored—an imagined entity that can only get in the way of great work. And in some aspects of life, I’d agree with this advice. However, when it comes to thought leadership, failing to worry about the audience is a frequent cause of content that fails to hit the mark.

1) Name names. When I write, I have in my head a host of people we work with closely—people I speak with on a regular basis. Picturing those individuals and considering their needs influences what I write about and how I write it. Putting this into practice in a larger team is trickier but I’ve see it done well. Working with a consultancy firm in the early stages of a project, I’ve seen the power of getting subject matter experts—consultants who work with members of the target audience—to name names and talk about the concerns and needs of those specific individuals. Keeping these people to the forefront throughout the process helps ensure that the end product delivers what is appreciated.

2) Involve your target audience. Another, complementary, approach is to actually involve members of the target audience in the research. Could you run a roundtable while creating your next piece of content? Or set up a series of interviews? Speaking directly (and no, a survey doesn’t count) to those you wish to target is a great tactic for ensuring their concerns and needs are addressed in the end product.

*Quote attributed to Benedict Cumberbatch.

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