Sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious. If I said, “write your content for your readers” you’d say something like, “Duh! Stating the obvious! Of course you write for your audience.” Unfortunately, many companies miss this most fundamental concept to content generation. Let me give you a real life example. (NOTE: names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Generic Co. wanted to promote its new line of naturally derived products, a dozen new products that comprised the company’s first “green” innovations. The products were even certified green by an independent third-party agency. In a largely un-green industry, this line was important to the company’s long-term success.

The press release for the launch had a green message, including a table listing all the products and the percentage of renewable content in each. When the table arrived from the client it listed products by name, which, unfortunately, were simply the trade name followed by a numeric designation, as was the company’s standard naming convention. Here’s what it looked like:

Product Name Biobased content
GreenStuff 1001 69%
GreenStuff 1002 78%
GreenStuff 1003 37%
GreenStuff 1004 63%
GreenStuff 1005 57%
GreenStuff 1006 76%
GreenStuff 1007 71%
GreenStuff 1008 28%
GreenStuff 1009 88%
GreenStuff 1010 83%
GreenStuff 1011 34%
GreenStuff 1012 51%

We suggested the table be reorganized to list the products by amount of renewable content in each product, from highest percentage to lowest. The revised table looked like this:

Product Name Biobased content
GreenStuff 1009 88%
GreenStuff 1010 83%
GreenStuff 1002 78%
GreenStuff 1006 76%
GreenStuff 1007 71%
GreenStuff 1001 69%
GreenStuff 1004 63%
GreenStuff 1005 57%
GreenStuff 1012 51%
GreenStuff 1003 37%
GreenStuff 1011 34%
GreenStuff 1008 28%

The audience, we argued, is more interested in the biobased content than the product name (remember, this is a entirely new line so there was no existing brand equity in the names). Listing by the percentage of green ingredients gives the readers an easy means to understand the whole line in one quick glance, we explained. It ties in with the line’s overall environmental messaging. The client declined.

Now, there are a hundreds of ways to slice cheese – some better than others but none that are absolutely right or absolutely wrong. But when it comes to content generation, you can almost never go wrong by writing for the reader. Doing so requires empathy. It forces you to view the material through a lens other than your own corporate lens. That’s not always easy – but it is always important.

  1. Consider the larger message. Make sure the writing supports the bigger picture and your Unique Selling Proposition.
  2. Ask yourself: “Why should the reader be interested?” (What is the news value?) Then ask: ”What will focus the reader on that point?”
  3. Ask yourself: “Would I understand this content if I’d never seen it before and I was just skimming through it?” Sounds obvious, but for many in B2B it isn’t.

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