Published By:

Common blogging wisdom says that you should know your audience and write to them. That’s certainly good advice in general, but if your idea of “audience” is too broad or general, you could end up creating something that speaks to no one at all.

When you think of an audience, what image comes to mind? Maybe you imagine a cinema crowded with movie-goers staring at a glowing screen. Or a football stadium packed with screaming fans. Or a concert hall full of hushed, attentive listeners. Regardless, with such a large “audience” in mind, how do you write to them all? What do the audience members have in common that you can tap in to?

In the introduction to Bagombo Snuff Box, Kurt Vonnegut published his “Creative Writing 101” — eight rules for good storytelling. Though his rules are geared specifically toward fiction writing, some of them are just as important for nonfiction writing, and especially for blogging. His seventh rule states:

“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

Put another way, you won’t be able to please (or, in digital marketing terms, engage with) everyone with your post. But you can please just one person with it. By focusing on just that one person, you can create a more personal, even intimate, connection with your readers.

Narrowing your audience to just one specific person can give your writing more focus and eliminates the equivocation and generalizing that can creep into a post when you’re trying to be all things to all people. So instead of writing a post to appeal to, say, all women over the age of 40 in managerial positions, write your post to speak to your own manager, or to your own daughter, or even to Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!.

Your tiny audience doesn’t have to be someone you know, or even someone you know about. It can be a volunteer at a nursing home, or one of the guys who picks up your trash each week, or the adult you thought you’d be when you were thirteen.

It doesn’t matter that the person reading your post doesn’t volunteer, doesn’t work outdoors or hasn’t hit puberty yet; you can still connect through humanity’s shared experiences and through the fact that your post speaks directly to the reader. You’ll be talking to a person, not preaching to a crowd.

How does this shift in focus translate in the real world? The differences can be subtle or dramatic, but they can also mean the difference between reading your entire post and clicking away after the second paragraph. Consider the beginning of this factitious blog post:

People start blogging to have fun. Some people even make some spare cash from their blogs, and a few actually make a living at it. What many bloggers have found over time, though, is that their blog becomes more than just a simple soapbox. It becomes a gateway to a new community of friends, colleagues, and business leads that makes blogging more worthwhile than they originally thought possible.

This opening is grammatical. It states some facts that anyone can grasp, and it gives an idea of what the rest of the post will be about. But do you connect with it? Are you compelled to keep reading?

What audience is this author writing to? It could be meant for any number of a large group: people who want to know about blogging in general, people who don’t understand why other people blog and people who are interested in online communities for starters.

Focusing on a more definite, smaller audience can turn this vanilla opening into triple chocolate fudge that readers will want to gobble up. Let’s rewrite this for someone who likes to write but, even though her friends keep talking up the wonders of blogging, doesn’t think a blog will be worth the effort. More specifically, let’s write it for a woman in her late thirties, single and childless and with a secure job, who has been journaling from time immemorial:

Your friends keep nagging you to start your own blog. It’s fun, they say, and you can even make some spare change from it! But your finances are in order, your future looks secure, and you get plenty enjoyment from the journaling you’ve been doing since before the Commodore 64. So why put yourself out there publicly with a blog?

Simple: Because blogging is about more than just the words. There’s a whole community of people just like you ready to bring you into the fold and lift you up.

Not everyone who reads your post will be a single, professional, thirty-something, female diarist, but that’s not the point. Anyone who reads this can find something to identify with:

  • Everyone has been faced with friends nagging you to try something you don’t want to try.
  • Everyone has experienced the trepidation of trading old, comfortable habits for new ways of doing things.
  • Everyone has worried about opening themselves up to public criticism and (horror of horrors!) ridicule.
  • And everyone understands how support from a community can help you grow as an individual.

These are some of the things that make us human. These are the shared experiences that link us one to another, that lead to sympathy and empathy. And because we can all identify with these experiences, we are drawn into the post personally.

What about you? Do you try to write to everyone all at once, or do you have a specific person or persona in mind? Whom do you most try to please with your posts?

Image credit: B. Rosen


Sponsored Resources

Want more resources

View all Resources

Most Read


Our publication contributors combine decades of experience with unique insights into the content promotion and distribution industry.
Chad Pollitt Partner, VP of Audience Native Advertising Institute
Jay Baer Marketing Strategist, Speaker and Author
Gini Dietrich CEO Arment Dietrich
Jason Falls Social Media & Public Relations Thought Leader
Joe Beccalori CEO Interact Marketing
Douglas Karr Founder & CEO & DK New Media
Brianne Carlon Rush Content Director Kuno Creative
Janine Popick Co-founder & CMO Dasheroo
Arnie Kuenn CEO Vertical Measures
Pam Didner Global Content Marketing Strategist & Author
Chirag Ahuja Head of Marketing WorkflowMax
Jayson DeMers Founder & CEO AudienceBloom
Erik Deckers Professional Writer Pro Blog Service
Bernie Borges CEO Find and Convert
Jessica Stephenson VP Marketing ExactHire
Michael Ferrari Marketing Consultant Pen Cap Online Marketing
Larry Alton Freelance Writer and Editor
David Tile Founder & Director Nimble Media
Kelsey Libert Marketing VP & Partner
Dan Steiner Co-Founder & CEO Elite Legal Marketing
Joydeep Bhattacharya Relevance Contributor
Jonah Bliss Founder CMO ContentIntent
Andrea Lehr Promotions Supervisor Fractl
Fernando Labastida Co-Founder Content Propulsion
Dan Moyle Creative Dir. Marketing AmeriFirst
Dennis Yu Chief Technology Officer BlitzMetrics
Arnaud Roy VP Marketing Augure
John Rugh Copywriter/Content Marketing Specialist
Justin Spicer Content Researcher, Producer & Editor
Michael Becker Marketing Support Spec. Teradata
Anna Johansson Freelance Writer
Amanda DiSilvestro Content Editor and Writer HigherVisibility
Sujay Maheshwari Founder & CEO
Kelly Coulter Online Marketing Strategist
Taylor Radey Senior Consultant PR 20/20
Rodger Johnson Public Relations Leader & Consultant
Simon Penson Founder & Managing Dir. Zazzle Media
Danielle Wolter Nolan Co-Owner
Fernando Cuscuela Founder & CEO Everypost
Kelly Smith Content Manager CourseFinder
John McTigue EVP Kuno Creative
Yogita Arora Content Strategist Zoomph
Jordan Teicher Associate Editor Contently
Jonathan Crowl Digital Marketing Writer & Editor
Brian Honigman Marketing Consultant, Writer & Professional Speaker Skyword
Katherine Halek Content Strategist
Amanda Drinker Dooley Community Product Marketing Manager Netline
Anton Rius Digital Marketing Consultant More Than Metrics
Matthew Zajechowski Outreach Manager Digital Third Coast
Kevin Bailey Co-founder DigitalRelevance
Peter Chen Digital Marketing Consultant DigitalRelevance
Luana Spinetti Multi-Specialized Freelancer
Kyle Harper Writer Skyword
Elad Natanson Founder appnext
Maël Roth Content & Inbound Marketer Park7
Quin Woodward Pu Marketing Director Audienti
Greg Shuey Co-Founder Stryde
Jean Bansemer CEO My Web Writers
Owen Andrew Journalist
Luke Kintigh Global Content & Media Strategist Intel

In case you missed

Read more of the latest news and insights from thought leaders in content promotion and distribution.


Get the latest content promotion news and insights everyday.

Champion Sponsor

Relevance is proud to present our Champion Sponsor that helps make our site possible.

Cision Logo

© 2017 Relevance | Content Promotion News & Insights

Connect with RELEVANCE

Thank you for subscribing Your subscription has been confirmed.