How to Connect with Your Audience

– Grab Them
– Surprise Them
– Move Them

In this post, let’s talk about how to grab your audience. News stories rely on sparking an emotional response to get their viewers to pay attention. You can use this same strategy in your marketing, as long as you’re not cheapening your content or the response you expect from your customers. There are five motivating factors to get your audience to care about your content––something I learned after attending a seminar with journalism guru Al Tompkins from the Poynter Institute.* In the news, each story usually has at least one of these factors, but often stories can include more than one category. In marketing, these factors are also key elements in getting your customer to pay attention to your message – how does what you’re saying relate to one of the five motivating factors they care about?

Five Motivating Factors for Your Content

  • Money: This content asks and answers questions like “Is this going to help me save money?” and “What will this cost me?” In the news, money is a reason that big lottery stories go viral; people want to hear stories like that and believe that it can happen to them.
  • Family: This type of content centers on the question “How will this affect my family?” This topic is often closely connected to safety and health.
  • Safety: People want to keep themselves and their loved ones safe; that’s what this motivating factor focuses on. You often see news stories about crime – those are fueled by the safety factor.
  • Health: Related to safety, this topic includes content like medical news, how to live longer, feel better, and other public health risks.
  • Community: Everyone is part of several different forms of community (your neighborhood, school district, city, country) and the content they consume reflects that. People are interested in news and content that is local and relevant to them and reflects how they think.

When you’re writing content for your website or other marketing materials, ask yourself if it fits into any of these categories. If not, does your audience have a motivation to read it? Thinking about these topics is another great way to brainstorm topics for your SEO content like blogs and other news posts.

Beware of Clickbait

If you’ve watched the news or browsed any big brand’s social feeds, you’re probably aware that there’s another way to grab people’s attentions: clickbait. Clickbait can be effective in getting views, but most often it cheapens your content and ends up disappointing customers. Topics like curiosity (think celebrity gossip, sneak peaks into the homes of the rich and famous, etc), moral outrage (posing a hot topic question that is sure to spark debates), and trending social items (big headlines and popular memes) will grab attention, but they probably won’t keep it or leave a positive impression with your customers. You can use these motivators, but tread carefully. I still find it’s better to build content with lasting emotional appeal that strengthens your connection with your clients.

(*I highly recommend Al Tompkin’s book, Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia.)

In part 2, Bickford focuses on how to surprise and move your audience.

This blog post is an adaptation of Bickford’s workshop through the Maryland Small Business Development Center .

Pieter Bickford is a Marketing Executive at HighRock, a Capitol Communicator sponsor.

The first thing that is obvious about Pieter is the unique spelling of his name. Though his parents have never really given a straight answer for the extra vowel, the most popular explanation is he was named after a character in the novel Crime & Punishment. Perhaps taking the cue from those literary roots, Pieter spent much of his career in journalism, and today his favorite part of being a Marketing Executive is discovering the stories behind a company or organization.

Pieter’s involvement in the community is deep, having worked with a number of nonprofits throughout the years and currently serving on the Washington County Board of Education. He and his wife Stephanie are empty nesters, while their daughter is exploring college life outside of Boston.


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