Have you ever read something that instantly grabs and holds your attention?
In these cases, it seems that the author has a special key to stoking your curiosity. Their stuff is addicting.
I remember feeling this way about “The One Minute Manager.” I spent every moment thinking about our reading that book. The author was in my head and speaking my language.
I’ve been changing that elusive quality, the secret sauce, ever since.
There has been a mini-renaissance in writing lately largely spurred on by the current fascination with content marketing. Writing is, once-again, a big deal and we’re learning that excellent writing translates into more readers, subscribers and sales. But the movement has gotten sidetracked with an inordinate focus on manipulating:
- Frequency: How many posts to publish and when
- Word Count: The optimal length for a blog post
- Tricks and Tips: Tweaking standard blog post elements hoping to find the right sequence of factors.
This stuff is marginally important. It isn’t even close to being the main deal.
Instead, I believe that you should be focused on cultivating Reader Empathy.
What is Reader Empathy?
Empathy is “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another”.
Reader empathy focuses this ability on your readers.
For example, I often ask myself – “What is annoying my reader about blogging right now?”
Reader empathy would be my ability to step into my reader’s place and identify what is annoying them. Often the answers are raw, unpolished, and brutally honest.
- “The experts are annoying me. I suspect they don’t have a clue about blogging”
- “I don’t have time to write. I hate writing and I really wish Stan would stop talking about it every week!”
- “I am scared to have my thoughts published in public. I fear the criticism and the thought that I might be wrong.”
- “Of course, Stan’s stuff works, he’s been working at it for 16 years! I have been doing this for 16 days!”
Each of these statements are emotional and blunt. They should be because they reflect how your readers feel.
The secret to “Great” posts lies in your ability to take this frank feedback and turning it into answers, inspiration, and motivation for your readers. Responding to these reader emotions earns trust, credibility, and authority for you and your business.
Why Corporate Speak Doesn’t Work
I’m sure you’ve read a blog post that said the right things but totally missed the mark with you.
Examining the post would reveal that the words, scenarios, and examples weren’t remotely close to how you felt about the subject. Many times, these “boring” posts are filled with corporate speak that says – “We are talking at you not to you.”
That’s why I teach my blog coaching students to write their posts in the second person “you” to force them to imagine a flesh-and-blood person reading their posts. Think about it. How often do you use corporate speak while having coffee with a friend? Hardly ever right? When forced to use a buzzword, you probably preference it with “Sorry for the jargon” to make sure you listener understands you aren’t a jerk! If corporate speak doesn’t communicate empathy in real life it won’t work on a blog either.
There are situations where terms that carry meaning for your audience should be used. For example, I am not fond of the term “Engagement” but it expresses important ideas in one word which means I need to use it, intelligently, in certain circumstances. Highly technical subjects that require precise definitions can also use insider-terms to communicate. Be careful, however, in using them as a crutch.
How to Have Reader Empathy
Reader Empathy can be learned. It’s true that the best content producers have a talent for empathy but you have the skill and use it often in day-to-day interactions. The part you need to work on is starting the creation process from the reader’s point of view. Here are 3 steps to take to get you started:
Step #1. Pick a reader that you already know and have spoken with.
Wait, are you saying that you don’t know a single a reader? If so, correct the oversight today. You can’t hope to write great content if you don’t know your audience.
It helps to write a specific description of your reader. Add details such as:
- Their name (example: Emily)
- Their responsibility (example: Social Media Manager for a Nonprofit)
- Their background and education (example: Marketing and Gift Officer at a series of nonprofits for the last 10 years)
- How they prefer to learn and solve problems (example: DIY, structured environments, one-on-one coaching). (example: Hire an expert for short well defined consulting assignments)
- How do they feel about their job / role / challenge? (example: Feels like she is changing the world. Gets impatient with unnecessary fluff and bureaucracy.
Step #2. Create a list of the items that excite and worry your reader about your subject.
For a moment, set aside what you want to say and focus on what your reader needs to hear and see. Content marketing works best when you build content around your reader’s needs. Understanding the emotion behind your audience’s needs helps you communicate with authenticity and relevance.
Step #3. Write content that alleviates worry and boosts excitement
Yes this is straightforward. Look at your editorial calendar. Can you point to specific posts that your reader would pump their fist and say “YES! Finally someone gets it!”
What Do You Think?
Tell me your favorite way to get in the Reader Empathy zone and build content from your reader’s point of view.