Read the previous posts in the series: Be the audience and Address your audience's needs.

To improve engagement, address questions & objections.

We’re all bombarded with content from morning till night, making us more discerning than ever about the content we choose to consume. If your content doesn't address readers’ needs right from the start, they’ll move on to something else that does.

The most relevant content answers readers’ questions and addresses their objections. You don't have to interact directly with your audience to do this (but if you can, great!). Check in with people who interact with your audience frequently. Sales and biz folks always have great insights. CRM personnel and the person who answers the phones also have some understanding of what your audience craves.

Of course, you can do this on your own, too. Simply trying to anticipate questions and objections will get you focused on information that's more relevant.

Making it work

Write down a few things you think your reader might ask you. It’s a safe bet that most audience members will at some point ask a variation of “What’s in it for me?”, “Why should I care?”, or “What if I don’t?”.  And that's never a bad place to start. Next, come up with three or four more specific questions related to your target group and topic. Don't forget the "Yeah, but..." kind of objections, either.

I like to use a little organizer to help me track this:

drive engagement by answering questions

Click image for larger view. Excerpted from Content-Purpose-Audience Strategy, copyright 1995-2012 TTMS, Inc.

Not only does this help me track the questions, but it also reminds me to make sure to integrate these concepts into the details and calls to action I'll be including.

An example

A few years ago, I wrote some online content for a local museum in support of an interactive exhibit on coffee. The article was supposed to address the health issues related to consuming coffee and the environmental impact of farming it. Based on what the staff knew about museum visitors and members, we came up with these questions to guide my content development:

Answering questions helps you create relevant content

Click image for larger view.

As I researched and wrote, I stayed focused on these questions, weaving the answers into the details of the piece. The result was a very happy client and good feedback from readers. That's what I call content engagement!

Your turn

Today as you prepare content, invest 2 or 3 minutes to note a few questions and objections your audience may have. (You can download an organizer here) Then, as you plan the details of your article, integrate the "answers". I think you'll find that your draft is closer to final!

Next, we'll chat about how calls to action can drive content engagement.