How To Make Sure Your Content Has An Authentic External Voice

I had a meeting last week with an organization I’m just getting to know. The conversation was peppered with acronyms as they described their organizational structure. It was a sea of letters, and at one point I just started to chuckle because it was all so confusing. Confusing to me, not to them. To them, the whole thing made perfect sense; they were all speaking the same language. Better yet, speaking the kind of secret code that bonded them together more closely.

At some point, I’ll have a complete and full understanding of all that jargon. I’ll be in the club. Which will be great, because it’s cool to be with the in-crowd.

However, as a content marketer who believes that the best content must be audience-focused, being in the club is dangerous, too. It can create a barrier to doing the job of content marketing. It can inhibit your ability to create content with an authentic external voice. Having that voice is  critical when the primary audience you’re communicating with is outside the walls -- that is,  not in the club.



This is a major reason why I think bringing a journalistic ethic to content creation is important. The job of a journalist is to take a disparate set of facts and weave them into a story that is coherent to the audience. Historically, that has not been Job 1 for a marketer; historically, marketers have been tasked with trumpeting the company message at the audience, and if you paid enough for reach and frequency, the marketing usually succeeded

We all know that’s no longer the case. Today, marketers must talk with and have empathy for the audience. In other words, they can’t try to communicate externally with jargon-laced insider-speak. They must have an understanding of external realities, viewpoints and perceptions, and infuse this understanding into marketing messages and content.

The audience has made it pretty clear that they do not want to hear a purely one-sided story blasted at them through a company’s megaphone. As this recent survey from Kentico Software showed, consumers trust content from companies, but only if they feel it provides a balanced perspective: 49% of consumers say they trust what companies say, but look to verify it with other sources; 57%  said educational content is more credible when it contains third-party sources.

Think of the world of politics, where one of the greatest sins a candidate can commit is to be “out of touch with Main Street.” The candidate that aligns herself with the people and seems like a regular Jane has a heightened level of credibility. The same dynamic applies to brands. Speaking with an authentic external voice and demonstrating empathy creates credibility and trust with the audience.

How are you supposed to do that? How do you guard against becoming too clubby and forgetting how the outside world thinks and behaves? The first step is being aware of the danger of becoming too internally focused. It requires having an editorial sensibility and a curiosity about what is going on “out there.”

Without a continual effort to consider that empathetic viewpoint and to speak with that external voice, your content is going to fall flat.

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