How to move from insight to campaigning content your audience won’t ignore


Andy Williams

Co-founder, the wordy 'other half' | Intrigued by good content, and what it achieves | Bit of a nerd, quite creative, loves to write | Father, cyclist, activist | [ he/him ]

Sharon Tanton

Sharon is Content Director at Cohesive, and co-author of Valuable Content Marketing | Fascinated by the power of stories in making change | Loves gardening | Lives in Bristol

A angler silhouetted by golden sunset casts a line into a calm sea. Beneath the surface, a feeding frenzy of large fish. Metaphor for campaigning content- fish where the fish are.

In a previous articleWhat standups teach us about understanding an audience  –  we argued pretty passionately that you need to get to grips with your tribes’ deeper careabouts if you want to create content to move and motivate them. And we shared a 5 step recipe for capturing those audience insights. Now we’re going to chat about how to carry those insights through to campaigning content your audience can’t ignore.

Hold up  – in a 5 minute read? Fair point. This is a big topic, best not consumed all at once. What we’re sharing here is a slice, a powerful shortcut, one practical strand of strategy to get you from insight to inspirational, campaigning content. Once we teach you some other strands, you’ll have yourself a whole content strategy. But that can wait, for now.

It’s going to be helpful to hold in mind the jobs you’ll want your content to do for you:

Create and build awareness | Foster trust | Demonstrate your relevance | Inspire action

The last one is the most important – take action. That action might be ‘sign up to our newsletter’ or ‘join our webinar’. Or, if you’re already in their crosshairs as a potential partner or provider it might be ‘promote us to the shortlist’. The point is, whether your job is marketing or selling your content needs to matter to people if it’s going to motivate anything at all. And that’s how deep audience research always pays back.

Tell a story your audience is already invested in

Fish where the fish are. Dig where the spuds are. Why look for ‘new’ when there’s a powerful story playing out right in front of you? As marketers and salespeople we often overplay the power of ‘new’. We assume that people will be interested in whatever new thing we’ve brought to market, just by virtue of its novelty. (If you need more context here, take a read of A recipe for perfect content upcycling ).

"Content that stops us in our tracks often seems to be articulating our own thoughts."

But we’re not all searching for new. When we’re scrolling through waterfalls of content our attention is often drawn to words that reflect themes already on our minds. Content that stops us in our tracks often seems to be articulating our thoughts. It doesn’t scream and make demands on our attention. Instead it echoes what we’re already feeling, and takes us deeper into a place we know. There’s power in familiarity, not just in newness.

Always use this insight to tell better stories. But we can sharpen our focus even more.

Stand up for a cause

Think about those times you went out of your way to make your opinion heard, show your support, ensure your vote counted, on something you cared about. We’re not simply talking about piling in on social media with the rest of the herd – we all do that from time to time. We’re talking about those occasions when you felt you needed to educate yourself around an issue, share your informed opinion, and bring others with you. One of your careabouts had bloomed into a cause. You knew you wanted – maybe needed – to make your difference.

Your audience has causes too. For example, hybrid working is on many people’s minds right now. We’re all swept up in the cultural change in the way we work, one way or another. For some, it’s a way to work more sustainably. For others, it’s about democratising the workplace. For a third, diverse group of people it’s about improving hybrid workstyles from a cultural, wellbeing and technical perspective. Taking a step back, we’ve got skin in this game and you have too. We’re a broad church, sharing common cause.

"Causes are your shortcut, your hack, to move you quickly and fluently from audience insight to campaigning content."

Causes can bridge all kinds of boundaries – demographic, market, work-life, departmental/functional. They foreshadow shifts in opinion. They unite people into movements that create change.

And causes have heroes and villains. They pose questions and demand answers. They throw up challenges, and invite solutions. Wise content creators can harness a cause’s energy and appetites for clear perspectives, thoughtful questions, evidenced answers and  creative solutions.

Causes are your shortcut, your hack, to move you quickly and fluently from audience insight to campaigning content.

Getting practical with content

The flexibility to recognise how your organisation’s goals ally themselves with your audience’s cause is especially powerful if your products and services are technical or complex. Back to our previous example: there’s a limited pool of people who get excited about business phone systems or cloud connectivity, so you’ll be hard pushed to start useful sales conversations if that’s your starting point. But everybody has an opinion and their own story to tell about hybrid working.

People care about things that affect them directly, so talk about those instead. Be interested. Add an original voice to a conversation that’s already happening, and you’ll find it easier to get some momentum. Curiosity, careful research, some compassion, a little patience and an open mind – that’s the toolset.

Now comes the crucial part. Use what you’ve learnt from your research to tie the audience careabouts to a larger story. This is where you can get specific and relevant. Once you’re positioned as part of a familiar narrative it’s time to use your knowledge of your audience’s real life challenges and questions to create content that adds useful insight to it. Here’s an example

4 kinds of campaigning content for causes

Original research | Strengthen your expertise in your chosen territory. Involve your audience in the research. Design the survey. Set up interviews. Get into the lab. Share the research process and results with your audience and the wider world.

Write blogs that explicitly tie relevant individual detail to the wider narrative | e.g. How Gen Z women are navigating hybrid working | Are productivity apps good for mental wellbeing? | How female led startups are tackling climate change |
The pattern to follow is tiny detail + helicopter view = relevant original content. 

Write guides that help your audience with the subjects they’re losing sleep over |How to secure talent in the era of flexible work | How to balance wellness and productivity in remote team working | From the boardroom to the customer contact centre: why successful organisations put diversity at the top of the agenda |

Newsletters or zines that push self promotion to the side and talk instead to the causes your audience cares about. Newsletters can be a great way to drip feed bite-sized chunks of actionable insight. Share what you’re learning and what you experience along the way. Make the communications conversational, and you’ll become an ally to the cause.

And whatever you’re creating, remember these principles.

5 qualities of great cause-driven content

  • Helps your audience solve a problem that matters to them or, shares a useful perspective on that problem or, lets them frame a more useful question
  • Helps them benchmark themselves and their organisation
  • Connects you and them to some larger narrative, one that has relevance beyond the day job
  • Action oriented, but it doesn’t shout or scream. We’re all in this together, so keep the tone conversational.
  • Shines a new light on a sprawling challenge to help your audience navigate the next crucial step.

We’ll be following this article up with more ‘insight to impactful content’ ideas, helping you build towards an actionable content strategy that converts to inspirational content and campaigning. Sign up to The Clec below – if you haven’t already. It’s our fortnightly zine. We share all of our fresh content there first.

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