Writing With Purpose: Understanding Your Audience

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Every time I’m asked about my job as a Copywriter, I have to explain what it entails to people who normally have no understanding of the industry I work in, aren’t interested in what I do and those that genuinely want to know but don’t understand how it can actually be a full-time job. I’m pretty good at judging who wants or needs what response now but the questions keep on coming, and that got me thinking that an in-depth look at the different aspects of SEO and online marketing could be useful resources to current and prospective clients, other professionals and those looking to enter the field.

That has led me to start the first mini-series of blog posts, looking specifically at writing great content for every client. In the first part of this series, I’ll look a bit closer at understanding the target audience and how this will change how you go about the project.

Don’t run before you can walk

This sounds simple but you’d be amazed at the number of writers I’ve met and worked with who like to just jump into a project and hope for the best. Unfortunately, the best is never the result and normally you will create extra work for yourself as your client will not be as trusting of your skills and abilities. At worst, doing this can cause you to lose the client completely to another writer or service and that won’t help your career.

Let me be clear here: if this is a personal project, or something that won’t affect someone else, then by all means jump in and see what comes of it. If it works this time, great, but chances are it won’t work next time. Any writing project needs a level of research and planning because by the end you’ll lose focus, motivation and the overall point of your project.

Do your research first

One of the most important stages in any and every project, whether it’s written content or something else, is to do the right research. At this stage, while having an idea for the market, sector, industry, product or service you’re writing for is useful, it’s not essential. A brief insight will make it easier to understand your audience.

The best way to do this is looking at the client’s website and the target for the content. You’ll see how things are written and the response it gets, and if the target location is different, you can get a second opinion. That can sometimes be enough – especially if there is high user interaction that gives you a feel for what the audience likes and dislikes, how they react and how they write. Essentially, you are building a profile here of who you are going to be speaking too.

Other great tools to use are social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. Searching hashtags and keywords will allow you to build a better idea of what people like, how often they’re online and more.  Combining these approaches will give you an excellent understanding of the demographic your client is targeting. There will be exceptions, and yes, at this stage you are generalising, but until you come to do the writing, it’s the easiest and most efficient way to do things.

It also takes time – don’t underestimate the length of time this can take if it’s to be done properly. Sometimes, it might be very easy to get this profile ready while others it can take much longer. IF you are really lucky, the project or industry will be one you are interested in and that can help, but everything you do should be at the same, high quality and professional standard.

Communication is essential

Throughout every stage of a project, keeping in contact with the client is essential. They have the most information and experience of what you are producing the writing for and if you think you know better, no matter how much research you do, you’re probably wrong. Not only that, but the content isn’t for you, or a reflection of you – it’s for the client and you need to listen to what they say and want from you at all times.

You do have talent and experience of writing so if you think something’s wrong and not going to work, do say so but back it up. Explain why and if you have examples, show them! That way, you’re going to have a better relationship with the client and produce better work.

In the next post in this series, I’ll look closer at getting the tone right for your writing.

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