You’ve been tasked to personalize a topic. As a writer, you must make it vitally important to the brand’s readers and pull them in, like a best friend begging to learn more. The secret winning element is… people. When we write about people, and the human emotions, empathy and insight they possess, we can quickly make even the most mundane (or complex) product relatable among target audience members. We do this through connection and relationship building.
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” — Dr. Brené Brown
How you quote, source and write about people in your content marketing projects has the ability to enhance your brand’s reputation and move consumers through your sales funnel with more grace and loyalty.
How can writing about people enhance your content?
Weaving the human element into your writing means speaking to a person in a warm, relatable manner, beyond the parameters dictated by your buyer personas, target audience or ideal consumers.
The most successful advertisements and marketing messaging over the years have related to people and the things that matter to them, including happiness, family and gatherings because these topics allow brands to create connections on a human level, according to Gaurav Nihalani, a digital marketing manager at LinkedIn featured in an interview by HubSpot.
He goes on to explain that marketers need to think of personas as a three-dimensional person and question their interests beyond business applications. This is where tangential topics and empathy come into play. Discovering these with a little data digging and addressing associated topics makes your messaging a magnet for engagement while bolstering credibility on a personal level and moving leads through your sales funnel.
If your client has taken the time to investigate the psychographics of your target audience, allow these personalized insights to further inform your writing to connect with readers’ attitudes, values, lifestyle and interests, not just demographic stats. For writers looking to connect at a granular level and improve overall consumer experience, lean into psychographic data, suggests the CMO blog by Adobe.
Top content writers understand the target audience they’re writing for, have strong research skills and love to incorporate storytelling into their pieces to captivate their audiences, according to SEMRush. And their key resource? People.
When do writers write about people?
Let’s first quickly define who we’re including in our content creation. You obviously have your voice as a writer, and you’re also being mindful of your audience personas, but there are additional people who will make your content shine.
- People you interview and quote
- People who offer statistics and data
- People who share testimonials
- People who speak publicly
- People who offer an opinion
- People who’ve engaged with the brand
All these voices can mix and mingle in your content writing to add greater depth, knowledge, perspective and angles to further solidify your connection with your reader, in turn building the relationship between brand and consumer.
As writers, we incorporate people into almost all of our writing, with the exception of first-person essays and self-reflection pieces. These focus on us, and may be requested by a brand too.
But for the bulk of content marketing plans, we see the human element as a driving force for relatability in the following written content types:
- Blog posts
- Buyer’s guides
- Buyer personas
- Case studies
- News releases
- Webinar scripts
- White Papers
Adding a human voice and personal perspective to any of these assets entices your reader to move from one buyer stage to another with confidence and brand trust. Let’s look at a few examples.
Example 1: Woobox case study
Social promotion app Woobox offers a handful of case studies on their website to entice marketers to pull the trigger and give their service a try. In their piece titled Overcoming Marketing Fatigue: How Neuroscience Can Help You Build Contests That Get Results, the author focuses on how our behaviors and learning styles can affect our decision making.
In the case study, multiple people are referenced to build a connection with readers including:
- Historians in marketing
- Insights from AdWeek and Kenshoo writers
- Don Draper (Ahh, ‘Mad Men’!)
- References to gamers, brand ambassadors and selfie-takers
This content asset is winning because it goes far, far beyond the usual dry list of features and benefits of a product. Instead, Woobox shows their readers how their app works, who it benefits and how it could apply to various audiences. The colorful human element used in this case study makes the app come alive, making it more enticing and memorable than a bland post filled with screenshots and cookie-cutter UX how-to tips.
Example 2: Purina article
Pets rule the world, and we love learning how to take the best care of them possible. When it comes to educating their readers about pet food, Purina also leans into the human element.
In their article titled Wet vs. Dry Cat Food: Which is Better? The author quotes and shares insight from:
- Purina Veterinary Nutritionist Dr. Dorothy Laflamme
- A product reviewer of Purina cat food
Sure, a pet food manufacturer can list reasons why one type of food is better than another because after all, they work with kibble daily and are inherently experts in this niche. Instead, they took their content creation up a notch.
The writer named the behind-the-scenes nutritionist and referred to a happy consumer within the text to build authority, then connect with other cat owners. Hey, if this cat lover likes this food, mine might too! The outreach goes beyond brand-consumer, but from cat lover to cat lover, and that’s some winning relationship-building marketing.
6 Tips for properly vetting sources
As a writer, you have a responsibility to your reader. Not only do your opinions and ideas need to be trustworthy and factual, so do those of the people you highlight in your content.
The Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) shares six ways to evaluate sources thoroughly for your projects. As you draft that next article outline, and line up potential sources, consider working through this checklist too.
- Search the source/author and learn about their background to understand their overall platform. Is there a hidden agenda fueling their insight?
- Read introductions, about pages and book prefaces to learn the angle the source is taking. Do their beliefs align with the branding and buyer personas of your client?
- Determine the source’s audience. Do they overlap with or have the potential to expand your audience?
- Separate fact from fiction, opinion and propaganda. Everyone isn’t honest.
- Study the language the source uses. Is it emotion-based? Authoritative? Will it resonate with your readers?
- Double-check the facts shared by your source, à la journalist style. We all make mistakes, so doing a little leg work to verify stats and core ideas helps us write cleaner copy.
Choosing, finding and representing sources is hard. But, it’s necessary. I dig into the nuances between primary and secondary sources in this article and share multiple examples, so take a peek.
Bottom line: The quality and credentials of the people you weave into your stories, and how you represent them, all reflect on the brand you’re writing for. Whether they’ve supplied guidelines, or you’re sorting things out along the way, be mindful of how and who you mention.
5 Do’s and don’ts for writing about people:
1. Do address inclusivity and diversity when writing about people.
Sixty-four percent of consumers are more likely to take action after seeing an ad they deemed as inclusive or diverse, according to a study conducted by Google, Ipsos and The Female Quotient of 3,000 U.S. consumers in 2019. The 12 advertising elements examined included age, body type, culture, gender identity, language, overall appearance, physical ability, religious/spiritual orientation, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and skin tone.
As you approach your next content piece, can you be more inclusive and diverse when choosing sources, creating examples, selecting imagery to accompany your text or linking to additional references? Use your buyer personas as a guide to your audience, then push those boundaries. Ask your client if they’ve given much thought to representing a more diverse population in their marketing, and if they’re OK with you going there. Hopefully, they are.
2. Don’t forget to address emotions and empathy when writing about people.
Humans are sensitive creatures. When we tap into emotions by leading with an empathetic tone in our content, we connect to readers on their level. Econsultancy chats about this on their blog, highlighting the fact that empathy can be used to fuel more accurate buyer personas, leading to more effective targeting. As a writer, you can then parlay those psychological (beyond-demographic) bits of information into your writing.
Let’s look at Dove, the company that makes beauty bars, not soap. Even their product description (beauty bar) leads with emotion. Feeling beautiful is more smile-provoking than scrubbing away the day’s grime, right? In this video from Dove, we don’t see any product shots. Nobody is showering or doing the usual lathering routines we associate with soap. Instead, the scriptwriters present an intimate study of humans and their perceptions of themselves and others via an art experiment. By the second minute of the video, we identify with the people shown and reflect on our own perceptions of self, beauty and happiness. Wow.
3. Do include interviews and quotes when writing about people.
Sharing perspectives strengthens your writing. It can build credibility, help a new viewpoint to surface and add to the flow of your work. If your client has emphasized the need for originality and unique ideas, you can mix that into your content creation process simply by doing original interviews and quoting sources that haven’t been highlighted in their publication, suggests The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin. Author Vaughan Blakeley weaves original quotes and a visual storytelling narrative into this blog post about surfing life for Rip Curl.
I’m a former print media gal who used to spend hours each day chatting one-on-one with sources to craft feature stories for the local newspaper. For me, it’s no big deal to strike up a conversation.
For other writers, I know the thought of talking to someone directly is terrifying. I will share this: If you want to get more writing work, adding the ability to conduct journalistic-style interviews to your resume is like having a gold star next to your name. Take an online college course. Sign up for a workshop. Do whatever it takes to break past that fear and you’ll have yet another skill to offer your clients.
4. Don’t forget to share all viewpoints when writing about people.
Most topics aren’t one-sided. Hearing varying opinions helps readers come to their own conclusions about products or services, which feels empowering. In the world of journalism, we try to show that bias does exist and offer balanced reporting. Present the facts from all sides, and let the reader decide what they want to take away from the content. Is this product the best fit for their needs? Will this service solve the core problem at hand? When brands get this raw and honest with consumers, they listen.
As I write this post, the COVID-19 pandemic is in full force, making the majority of people pause their wanderlust tendencies. A month ago, just as word of the dangerous virus began to spread, Intrepid Travel published a blog post about deciding whether or not it’s safe to travel. They backed up their ideas with expert insight from reputable sources, gave readers trustworthy travel information sources to consult, shared ideas for staying healthy during an outing and explained pros and cons of canceling travel plans. By the end of the article the reader has been armed with many viewpoints and helpful information, poising them to make an informed decision.
5. Do address credibility when writing about people.
Everyone isn’t worth quoting. There, I said it. Some sources simply aren’t reliable, honest or helpful, but they may lead you to believe otherwise because they want to see their name in print and get some free promotion for their business. As you parse who to cite in your next piece, take a lingering look at their credibility. I mentioned earlier doing a bit of background research, but if your entire piece is built upon the findings or opinion of one pillar source, dig deep before building your story around them.
So, how do we do this? Start with Google and follow the rabbit trail to the person’s LinkedIn profile. Does their employment history and achievements align with what they’re telling you? Go to their website. If they profess longevity and expertise, do they have a portfolio of work or archive of videos and media mentions to back this up? Scout out their Twitter. Are they talking kindly about the topic, or trying to drum up controversy? Get to know your source beyond what they want to share. Learn what they are presenting to the world without the filter of a writer and editor.
Takeaway tips for writing about people
People connect to people. Finding a delicate balance between relaying branding messaging and communicating with your audience on their level conjures memorable content marketing assets. As you dive into your next writing assignment, keep people in mind.
- Reach out to sources. Name and quote them in your writing to strengthen the credibility and relatability in your content.
- Connect to your readers beyond age and occupation. What are their beliefs and desires? Can your content trigger emotions?
- Be fair, honest and inclusive. Respect the people you’re writing about in all ways. Represent them accurately and share their perspective.
- Go beyond lists of benefits, features and selling points. Use your creative talents to tell stories, share actionable advice and inspire readers.
At some point in your writing endeavors, you will weave the lively, relatable human element into your content. Is it a requirement listed in an assignment brief you’re tackling this week? If so, you’ve got this. And in the meantime, we’ve got you. Browse the ClearVoice blog for more writing tips, and set up your free writer’s portfolio to get writing projects sent to your inbox.