- July 6, 2021
How to Create Meaningful Content Every Time: The Who, What, What
Why do you sink your sweat and tears into writing, editing and rewriting? In B2B, the job is to help others explore a new idea or solve a problem, right? So, isn’t your audience at the foundation of anything you write, design, create and share? Most definitely!
Furthermore, with all the content out there, people keep getting pickier. They expect highly relevant “personalized” experiences – and that includes the content you’re creating in your job. If readers feel your content isn’t relevant to their needs, they’ll jump to something else. If, like me, your readers are often your company’s buyers, that’s a big problem.
As content creators, we all want to create meaningful content. Yet somehow, in the process of creating new material, teams can get a bit lost. So, it’s helpful to have a set of tools available that keep things on track. Whether it’s an e-book, a webinar or anything else really, content creators need to work hard to make sure everything they build provides clear value to their readers. Here’s one exercise I do before starting content development to guide myself. To help frame out my story and deliver on my objectives, I ask three simple questions.
#1 – Who are you talking to?
In many cases, your topic could be interesting to several different groups. But in order to create content that will feel more personally relevant, you usually need to narrow your focus. You want to think about a tight group of people with many needs in common. Inside your customer base, there are lots of segments, buying groups, and personas like this.
Be as specific as possible in answering the “Who?” question. Industry vertical works as a start. But inside of that, what is their function and their role? Are they more generalist in function or specialist? Are they senior or a more junior level? The more precise you can be, the better you’ll be able to create messages and material that will attract and engage your “Who.”
#2 – What does your audience currently think about the topic?
Now it’s time to walk a mile in your audiences’ shoes. Before you start working out how to get them onto your side, imagine what their day-to-day looks like. What do they care about most? What are the biggest challenges or frustrations they’re facing?
Now expand out to the topic or theme you’ll be writing about. What does your audience think about it? Is it something they think about regularly, or rarely at all? How does it impact their everyday work?
If you’re going to go after more than one audience in a single piece, you should answer this question separately for each, since each audience will likely have different perspectives. And once you’ve done that, consider how the two groups might interact within the topic or scenario you’re presenting – you may need to address their potential interactions as well.
#3 – What do you want your audience to think about the topic?
In writing about anything, we want to introduce something compelling – a different perspective, idea or approach – that will resonate with other people, give them something or help them learn. Simply put, we’re usually asking our audiences to change. And in B2B, we’re commonly asking them to change how they perceive a situation such that they’ll be more likely to consider our solution.
Think hard about exactly what you want your audience to change. Is there business opportunity they’re missing that you will illuminate? Are there chronic barriers that they could overcome with just a little help?
The “story” you’re telling needs to be presented in a clear and familiar context so your audience can easily relate it back to their own work. When you set out to answer the second “What” question, you’re delivering the key takeaways you want your piece to provide. When you begin to map out the content in detail, you’ll want to ensure that you can use data, quotes and examples that build your audience’s confidence in your understanding of them and the relevance of your recommendations. Remember: it’s this thread of audience understanding that binds the whole piece together.
Seeing “Who, What, What” in Action
Personally, I do best with a real-life example. Let’s use this blog as an example of content that we need to create. Image we’re at the very beginning of the writing process and we need to answer these three questions.
Who am I talking to?
Early-in-career marketing roles who are either helping to get content created or are themselves content creators.
What do they currently think?
Process managers: This content takes a lot of time and effort to create, and that’s time I often don’t have. I’ve just got to get this out; I can’t worry about the performance of this single piece.
Content creators: Wow, we seem to be trying to talk to everyone here. I feel like it’s both too much and too little. This isn’t going to work.
What do I want them to think?
I have a simple tool that allows me to more easily create content that will better resonate with my audience. By answering these three questions before developing a new piece of content, I can be confident that the story will be relevant and meaningful to its intended audience. Implemented by all of us, this way will work better for everyone involved.
There are lots of ways to incorporate this exercise in your teams’ processes: if you’re visual, it might be helpful to map it out on a whiteboard or notebook. If you’re still “getting to know” an audience, you might want to use this as a brainstorming activity with a peer. Whatever your approach, make sure you write your thoughts down as you have them. Then, if you get lost while you’re creating, revisit your “Who, What, What” to double- and triple-check that you are delivering meaningful content for readers and your company alike.