All too often, businesses are so laser-focused on producing “perfectly” branded content that those delivering the message forget to direct their attention back to their audience. Marketers, entrepreneurs, tech junkies, and financiers are especially notorious for using industry buzzwords and in-house vernacular which actually alienate their readers.
But when it comes to capturing a business or organization's voice and tone, it’s more than a matter of diction; it’s about striking an understanding of who you are with those who want to know more about you. A good content writer empathizes with his or her audience. Unfortunately, empathy is a muscle that brands rarely remember to flex. Even on a personal level, only 10% of daily thoughts are focused on someone else’s perspective—during the other 90%, the mind is focused on self-directed reflections and relationships, according to Life Hack.
So how does one show more empathy in their branded content? Start by understanding your readers, how they are finding you, and why they want to connect with you.
Understand How People Search
Just by analyzing Google Trends, brands can find profound insights into hot topics. For instance, there are myriad of “best ___” searches that are reaching “breakout status,” meaning they’ve increased by more than 5000% with a 12-month timeframe.
Because consumer queries are becoming ever more specific, content producers should be aware of their target market’s behavior as well as the micro-moments that sparked their search. For example, Think With Google reported that there was more than 140% growth in searches for “best umbrellas.” This is just one of many signs that indicate customers are searching for hyper-specific information.
So what does this tell you about the modern customer? It tells you that no decision is too small. But let’s explore how you can use these insights.
Searches that include “ideas,” such as “bathroom ideas,” has grown more than 55%. If your business sells home decor, then produce content that aligns with your potential customers’ search terms. You can do this by providing clear answers to their questions and offering concrete solutions to their problems. This is how your brand captures a micro-moment.
Before creating content, ask yourself a series of questions to better understand the audience. These questions may include:
Who will read this piece?
What does my ideal reader want?
Am I persuading or informing readers?
What questions might the readers have?
In what micro-moment is this search occurring?
What is my call to action?
Although you’re composing branded content, it’s important to remember it’s for the customer, not for your coworkers (unless, of course, you're producing content for internal use). This means you want to keep the industry jargon to a minimum and tailor your message to the customer.
Likewise, every sentence you write should have a purpose. Be meticulous about replacing vague terms with specific phrases, and ensure you’re fully addressing your reader’s questions by browsing actual search terms in Google Web Master Tools or working with an SEO company that can aggregate this data for you. By doing so, you reduce the chances of your audience misinterpreting your message, or worse, running the risk of appearing misinformed about your own industry. Should this happen, your brand almost immediately loses credibility. The longer this goes unaddressed, the more credibility loss is at stake.
When writing a review or an informative piece, it’s not uncommon to begin researching a topic and then fall in a “rabbit hole” of information that confirms our beliefs. For instance, let’s pretend you’re a personal trainer lending insights into workouts, dietary regimens, and health supplements. Readers are more apt to trust you as an authority if you make it a point to address any exceptions, oppositions, and criticisms of your wellness philosophy.
Writer’s empathy means not only providing the content for which consumers are searching but providing answers to questions that they didn’t even know they had. This skill is essential to helping ensure strong brand identity. Such awareness and ability separate the good from the better and the better from the best when it comes to brands.
Know The Subtleties of Language
Be aware of the possible negative connotations that may be associated with your word choice. A few typical examples of words with negative connotations and their positive counterparts include:
Depending on the context of your piece, you also want to be cognizant of any antiquated saying, phrases, or words you’ve included. For instance, you wouldn't use the phrase, “A load of cobblers” instead of saying “nonsense.” It’s outside the contemporary lexicon, which can make content feel forced and unrelatable.
While this change in meaning generally happens slowly, people have a habit of changing words to fit their culture. For instance, “awful” once meant something was “worthy of awe” as opposed something dreadful. More recently, the word savage (as in “savage af”) has come to mean carefree, excellent, or wild, rather than fierce, violent, and ferocious (we hope this meaning doesn’t stick).
There are also the misleading, and possibly embarrassing malapropisms that slip into content. While reading your work, the brain seems to fill in the blanks and “corrects” your words to what you thought you wrote. A common mistake includes those who mean to say “specifically.” Instead, the name turns out to read “pacifically.” The worst part about it: spell check doesn’t catch malapropisms. Hense, the importance of the second set of eyes.
In the same way content marketers should avoid malapropisms and misspellings, they should also eliminate clichés. For example, a flower shop owner could use the call to action (CTA), "Stop and Smell the Roses." But most proverbs are like a bad shade of beige. The more worn out a business’s messaging is, the more it blends into the infinite abyss of bland branding.
To avoid using washed up phrases, try telling a story instead. If writer’s block is holding you up, consider reaching out to a company that specializes in branded storytelling.
Mastering The Craft
Preparing content that considers the consumer's opinions, wants, and needs requires time and skill. Your words need to be planned and researched to avoid being placed haphazardly on the page. Although it may appear costly to be investing time and resources into researching, developing, and crafting your content, your audience will notice the subtle nuances that make your piece speak to them.
Ultimately, it’s this clarity that builds brand loyalty. When you get your messaging right from the start, it makes each subsequent engagement with your audience that much more profound.
While keeping all these guidelines in mind, it’s important to be true to your business. This is to say; you need not deceive their customers, but instead, deliver an authentic-branded experience. Today’s conscientious consumers long for a genuine connection to those with whom they do business, hence the boom in the trust economy. Once they feel duped and that relationship is compromised, you not only risk losing a customer but also receiving a bad review (the effect of which can be pervasive).
If you’re in need of assistance, Ethos Copywriting specializes in content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and Google Ad campaigns. Click here to contact us about your content needs.