Why Marketing Content Depends on Audience Interpretation

October 11, 2013

As a writer, I’m often surprised by the ways small instances in everyday life can translate equally well to professional marketing tasks. Content writing, for instance, is about perspective.  To communicate effectively, good writers have to shape their own expertise around the possible reactions of their audiences – and a recent discovery made me realize just how delicately that communication hinges on the interpretation of the people receiving it.

When I redecorated my living room last fall, I bought a small wall print to add some fresh color. It was an impressionistic piece, a peaceful forest scene that I enjoyed looking at during the gray winter season. Then, while dusting just recently, I noticed a tiny signature in the upper left corner – exactly opposite of where it should have been. For a few seconds, I was puzzled. And then it hit me: for nearly a year, I’d been looking at the whole image upside down. What I’d taken for a copse of willow-like trees with graceful, hanging branches was actually a group of birch trees in tall, slender grass. A simple 180-degree turn put the signature back in its proper place – and it also gave me a very different picture.

When creating marketing content, it’s easy to forget that the real view of your audience may be quite different from your own internal business perspective. What seems important to the writer may not have the same meaning for readers, or even make any sense to them. Now that I stare at the birch tree print right-side-up every day, it’s obvious that it wasn’t meant to be anything else. Had I not noticed that tiny signature, though, I would never have seen the real value of the picture, whatever the artist had intended. What’s more, anyone who remembered their botany lessons would have noticed right away that the picture was upside down, which would have confused them and made me look foolish. A trivial event, maybe, but the same principle holds true for marketing content. Whether it be an image, a video, or written content, the real success (or failure) of any message depends on the perceptions of the people who see it.

So how can content writers prevent this kind of misunderstanding?

  • First of all, for any kind of marketing content, it’s essential to know your target audience – not just who and where they are, but what they think, how they feel, and what motivates them to act. It’s almost impossible to engage your audience unless you understand the issues that matter to them, and, more importantly, deal with those issues in a language they can relate to. The more deeply you can sound the market you’re trying to reach, the more easily you can anticipate the reaction(s) your content will generate – and the more effectively you’ll be able to communicate.
  • Secondly, content writers should never underestimate the value of honest feedback. Content writing is a dialogue. If audiences don’t respond well to your message (or don’t respond at all), it’s important to follow up and find out why. Are they turned off by the tone or the language (or in painting terms, do they struggle to pick out clear lines from an Impressionist style)? Are they bored by the subject matter (do they like action shots when you’re offering still-lifes)? Do they even understand the message (if you’re painting grass, do they see leaves instead)? If people misinterpret the message you’re sending, try to see the problem through their eyes, rather than attempting to explain or expecting them to “redefine” their views. Encourage open communication from your audience, and let them know that you’re willing to work with them.

Differences in perspective can play a huge role in the impact of marketing content, and it can be challenging to find just the right balance between multiple points of view. If you’re not getting the response you’d hoped for, don’t be afraid to turn your message completely upside-down if needed.

At Pulse Marketing, we love the challenge of creating engaging content! Contact us to learn more about beefing up your content marketing strategy.

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