The Importance of Knowing Your Audience
The famous author F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote “Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.” Though I slightly resent the implication that writers don’t have personalities of their own, I couldn’t agree more with the notion that a good writer must be able to access and portray several different personalities at any given moment. To be a good writer, one almost has to be an expert psychologist as well—picking up on the small details and implications of a client’s personality in order to determine exactly what it is they are looking for. The importance of knowing your audience is not simply about knowing who they are in title or type, but knowing them down to their very core; what attracts them, what upsets them, what excites them, what they need or desire and who they are underneath everything.
As an experienced writer, I’ve learned that there is no such thing as objectively “good” writing when it comes to content marketing, and that all writing has a time, a place and an audience to appeal to. For example, when I’m writing reviews on different technological gadgets or websites, I switch into the fast-paced, computer genius thought process portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg character from The Social Network. It seems to be a good way to trick yourself into being confident about your knowledge of the technology industry, which can be intimidating. I often surprise myself with how much I actually do know. Anyway, it seems like the most logical method for communicating with an audience of tech-nerds is to adopt the mannerisms of their king.
The appropriateness of jargon comes into question with technology-based articles and similar projects that require advanced expertise in the writing. You have to ask yourself the following question: Is this article strictly for a tech-specific audience or is it liable to fall into the hands of your average layman as well? As a general rule, you should avoid over usage of jargon unless it significantly enhances the article.
I also write for a website that offers advice to parents on how to improve communication with their teenaged children. Of course, all websites of this nature are born from good intentions, however, there are many conservative websites who prefer to steer subject material away from the ever-popular topics of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Before I could begin writing the articles, I had to determine what the values of the parents were and go from that angle. I also needed to establish what the overall tone of the website was: conversational? journalistic? academic? The tone would determine not only the structure of the article, but a lot of the subject matter as well.
Essentially, to produce quality content for a client you not only have to know your audience, but become them as well. When I mentioned in the introduction of this blog that writers have to be expert psychologists, I failed to mention that they must also be talented actors. The ability to sympathize can be useful for mediocre writing, but if you really want your writing to be great you must be able to empathize.