The right to be read

How to enjoy the right to be read

Persuasion is difficult. Gaining influence takes time … and patience.

How do you capture attention when your audience is overwhelmed with social feeds, emails and noise? When B2B seems to mean busy-to-busy?

In short,  how do you earn the right to be read?

Three things are critical.

1.  Know your subject

That sounds obvious, but it’s not always as simple as it sounds.

Can you talk to your subject beyond your own pitch-deck? Can you dig deeper than “features and benefits”? Do you understand the topic as it exists outside the corporate firewall?

If you are targeting a new market, new sector or new audience, if you are promoting a new application of your product or service, do you understand how your subject sits in that world?

Make sure you do the research. Speak to experts, both in-house and (especially) external. It takes time, but it’s easier to simplify a complex subject than to build an elaborate argument on a paper-thin platform.

2.  Know your audience

If you target everyone, you touch no-one. You end up with marketing muzak; broadly inoffensive background noise. That might meet goals for content produced, but it won’t stir hearts. It won’t change minds. It doesn’t earn you the right to be read.

You may be lucky enough to have an individual in your sights. Maybe, she’s a key influencer within the body of policy elites. Perhaps its your own CEO. That makes things easier. But if your target is a larger audience, then a marketing persona can be a powerful tool. The Alexa blog has some great examples of buyer personas, here.

Facebook Audience Insights can also be useful to add colour to your personas (even if you don’t intend to use Facebook ads).

You need also to understand your audience’s level of familiarity with your subject. Pitch a high-level overview at experts and, at best, they’ll ignore you. At worst, they’ll dismiss you as shallow. But, go too deep with an audience of novices and you can lose  even the most engaged follower.

An audience’s level of expertise, as well as their stage in the buying process, affects how you deliver your message: the spokespeople you deploy and the type of content you produce.

3.  Always add value

Ultimately, you need to be worth the effort. You seldom get a second chance, but if you get it right you begin to build trust and gain some influence.

There are two aspects:

Be objective

Here’s a test. If you deleted every mention of your product and brand, would your content still be useful? If the answer’s “no”, you need to think again.

The most powerful, most influential, content isn’t (directly) selling your brand, it’s providing value. Ultimately, it’s helping you towards a position of thought leadership or trusted advisor status, but in itself, each piece is (should be) useful to the reader.

Be credible

Show, don’t tell. Use research from respected sources to underpin your story: academic research, research from respected consultancies and analyst firms, reports from credible media or from government and (reputable) NGOs.

Give real-life customer examples or mini case studies. Use authentic customer quotes. Quotes are powerful, but they need to be genuine. Better to forego a selling point than suffer a “quote” created by your comms team. Never (never ever) use quotes created by committee.

Use relevant, meaningful hard data. The pity/fear/catharsis of story-telling will win hearts, but you need solid data points to win heads; £x saved, x% reduced, x% growth.

Signs of success?

How do you know it’s worked?

When small business owners print and keep those lavishly produced, colour-saturated ebooks.

When your material is downloaded and shared long after the campaign has ended.

When you read or hear your words repeated by your target audience in the corridors of power.

After all, the concern in creating content for influence and persuasion is more often copy/paste than copyright.

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