By Dennis McCafferty on

Ask “Why” to Connect Content to Audience

Dennis McCafferty

McCafferty: “Your content must demonstrate complete awareness and genuine empathy for the needs and pain points of your intended audience members, with an intimate understanding of the obstacles that stand in the way of their goals.”

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In content marketing, it’s critical to make a meaningful connection to the target audience. But it’s not an easy task: Potential customers and partners are perpetually busy. There’s plenty of content out there competing for their time. If you don’t offer something that’s instantly compelling, they’re going to swiftly dismiss you and move on to the next link – possibly one from a competitor.

To merit immediate attention, your content must demonstrate complete awareness and genuine empathy for the needs and pain points of your intended audience members. You convey a sense that you have “walked in their shoes,” with an intimate understanding of the obstacles that stand in the way of their goals. In working with our high-tech PR agency, our clients make this connection with other businesses to present themselves as experts with a plan. In a typical content piece, they first establish awareness  and then explain how they can help businesses respond to their challenges.

You can’t get to the second part if you don’t make a convincing case with the first one. Toward that end, I read a blog from a content marketer named Jenna Dalton, who writes about a “Five Whys” theory of audience connectivity. The theory is credited to a Toyota production problem-solving method, but it readily translates to other business uses, such as content. Simply stated, Dalton urges marketing professionals and their clients to ask “Why?” five times in attempting to identify customer needs.

This “trick” is highly effective in much part because it speaks to the fundamental way we learn – through the endless curiosity we expressed as children. Like when we asked about going to school:

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Of course I realize such exchanges can go in all kinds of directions. But I’m sure you get the point. From this conversation, we progress from a rather non-consequential ‘reason’ (“Because you have to …”) to a more enlightened one (to become the best person you can be, and make impact upon the world and people who matter to you).

So how does “Five Whys” apply to the discussions that content marketers and clients should be having? Consider another dialogue – this time between a content marketer and a tech client as they seek to identify their enterprise-level target audience members’ needs. For the sake of my illustration here, we’ll say the client specializes in solutions that secure mobile devices:

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Again, the exchange initially only scratches at the surface with respect to needs (revenue and profit), and then digs deeper to reach a more meaningful place (a productive, safe working environment that builds lasting trust with customers and stakeholders, as well as full engagement with employees).

In content, exploring these challenges remains a must-do. Otherwise, you fail to give the target audience a reason to read it. “Once you’ve uncovered why someone cares about what you’re talking about,” writes Dalton, “and you know the problems and pains they’re struggling with, you’re ready to take the next step … You’re going to use that information in the opening of your blog post to help your readers appreciate that you totally get them. This will draw them in to the post and make it more likely that they’ll keep reading.”

And that will bring them to the second part – in which the client illustrates how to address the challenges/pain points. For our clients, this involves the pursuit of innovation to come up with distinctive solutions that resolve issues for their customers by eliminating inefficiencies, raising situational visibilities, improving user experiences, etc.

They turn to us to effectively convey the extent of their dedication, through our content services. That’s how we drive clients to this level of target audience connectivity every day, in addition to our PR and social media services. If this is something you like to see in a full-service communications agency, then please do contact us. We’d love to continue the conversation of “Why?” with you.

Dennis McCafferty is Vice President of Content at W2 Communications.

Dennis McCafferty, Vice President of Content

As Vice President of Content, Dennis McCafferty brings more than 20 years of experience in editorial, working in all forms of content: metro/national newspapers, regional/national magazines, custom publications/content marketing, radio, TV, blogs and social media. Since joining W2 Communications, Dennis’s projects have included white papers, industry-publication byliners, blogs, op-eds, podcasts and case studies for the range of the agency’s clients.

Previously, he launched his own B2B/B2G/custom-publishing business, DM Enterprises, and worked with clients such as IBM, Advanced Micro Devices, USAA, Nationwide, Amtrak, Ritz-Carlton, MasterCard, GM and many others for their content marketing needs. He has also contributed to Baseline, CIO Insight, Washington Technology and VARBusiness magazine, among other titles.

From September 1997 through March 2010, he served as Senior Writer at USA WEEKEND, for which he interviewed newsmakers such as Presidents Bush and Clinton, Caroline Kennedy, Donald Trump and Web founder Tim Berners-Lee. Before WEEKEND, he was a staff writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he won a national, first-place award for investigative reporting.

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