Forget writing to the masses. Forget writing to a wide audience. One person is all you need.
When I sit down to write a blog for a client, I often start by looking through their social media sites to see what content people have already found engaging. That’s not all I’m trying to find, though. Partly I’m looking for “The One”—the person who can be my audience. Yeah, I said person, not people. Basically I need a face to represent my imaginary coffee date, to be the person sitting across the table from me, the one listening to what I’m going to say. It’s a lot easier than talking to a faceless crowd.
- Your house or mine? Blogger, WordPress, and their ilk are the living rooms of the business writing world. They’re not banquet halls or auditoriums. So, you don’t get a podium here: You get a sofa. You don’t get a microphone here: You get proximity to the person on that sofa. Straight-talking like you just rolled into town and stopped by for a “cuppa Joe”, that’s easier to do when you think of your blog as a conversation with “The One”. And that’s the right tack to take. Remember, nobody has conversations with crowds. Those are called presentations, and they don’t work great on blogs.
- The client is NOT the one. This piece is hard, sometimes really hard, because oftentimes clients fancy themselves to be the audience. They’re not. They’re the client. The better ones may offer you a lot of great insight into the nature of their clients and prospects, but the boss man is truly not who you’re talking to. In fact, when biz bloggers write as though the paying client were the audience, the result can be antiseptic and come off sounding sales-y. And it’s way too tempting to play it safe. You lose the improvisational spirit that actually snags readers. Not so when you write to The One.
- Do it in your undies. You want to hold court on your blog? Fine. Your expertise is a boon. Just make sure you’re offering it in your underwear and not a suit. By that I mean that it’s great to dazzle with your wit and wisdom, but you want to do it in a way that says, “We alone here? Between you, me, and the fencepost, I got a few things I want to tell you.” Not in a way that says, “Have a seat, folks, and let me fix my tie before I make this speech.” Done right, informality breeds intimacy, and intimacy breeds trust.
When I pick “The One”, I might aim for someone who’s shown some meaningful engagement with the client’s social media content. But just as often, I randomly choose a person who physically conforms in some way to what I know about the target demographic. Then I invent a sort of composite personality for them that jibes with the demographic. All you really need is a muse that could logically be in that would-be living room with you, and a set of eyes to look into as you take up your side of the so-called conversation.