Too much focus on your audience is a good thing. It’s the content marketing writer’s job to enforce that focus.
My new client’s CTO is bright and busy, and he talks fast. I was on time for my appointment in his office to interview him on server virtualization, and before I’d gotten to my second question, I saw his eyes dart to the clock on the wall behind me.
“You’d better let him do the talking,” my brain told my mouth. Mouth agreed, and we let the CTO tell his story.
“I want this piece to do two things,” he said. “I want it to differentiate us from our competitors in the areas of availability, failover and load balancing, and I want it to describe the benefits of each of those.”
Then he took off like a street fighter on global deployments, payloads and server utilization levels. I had no trouble understanding it, but my brain started nagging me again after a few minutes.
But — who is the audience?
“Whom does he want to read this?” my brain asked.
“He hasn’t told us yet,” replied my mouth. “Shall I find out?”
“I think you’d better.”
“Excuse me,” I asked the CTO, “Who is the audience for this piece?”
The question seemed to catch him off guard. “Oh, well, I would guess that it would be…well, I suppose the people who would be interested in this are…I’m trying to couch it in terms that would matter to…IT managers and people who need to make equipment work properly in a data center.”
He paused for a moment as I jotted notes. “Yes, that’s right: IT managers.”
I think he then replayed most of the interview through his head to see whether he had indeed said things that would be meaningful to that audience. After that, he recalibrated himself slightly and continued.
It’s a rare question, although it shouldn’t be
I still find it odd that people find that question odd. It almost always catches my interviewee off balance, but when I get a proper answer, it’s miraculous how much more easily I can hit the mark.
I’ve tried posing the question in e-mail ahead of time, but it has no effect on how people talk about their pet subject. Even when I raise it at the start of the discussion, the interviewee rarely sticks with it.
It’s up to the content marketing writer to keep the interviewee focused on the ideal reader. Most people in an interview are simply too absorbed in telling their story to focus on the audience.
How do you keep an interviewee on track with the needs of the audience?
photo credit: US Information Agency