Creating, and more importantly focusing, content can seem challenging, especially when you’re working across multiple mediums. It’s easy to feel like each medium, each campaign, each strategy has its own set of rules and its own playbook, and to an extent that’s true. You have to know the strengths and limitations of blogs or video or social media when you’re adapting content for each of those platforms, but when you get right down to it, all content has the same core goal — to communicate.

Content that works communicates clearly and effectively in any number of ways, and content that doesn’t work can fail in the details for a lot of reasons. But most of the time, the success or failure of content comes down to success or failure at answering these two simple questions.

1. Who are we talking to?

2. Why are we talking to them?

Who Are We Talking To?

We need to ask “who are we talking to?” because we have to have a clear sense of who our target is. As with buyer personas, you don’t need to know demographic data so much as what’s important to them and what their concerns are. If you’re not speaking to the things that are most important to them, or to the challenges that they’re trying to solve, your audience will never connect with your content. It’s also extremely important to have a sense of what level of knowledge about the topic your audience already has. Content that is too basic will bore more informed customers, and content that is too technical will overwhelm those who are newer to a subject. In all cases, if your content was created without a clear answer to “who are we talking to?”, your audience won’t come away having gained anything and most likely will feel like you wasted their time. That’s not a feeling you want associated with your brand.

Why Are We Talking To Them?

So if we know who we’re talking to, and we know what they care about and what they want and what their concerns and challenges are, now we have to answer “why are we talking to them?” It’s not because we want them to pay money to a business for a product or service, even if that much is obviously true on some level. It’s about what we want them to take away. Information about a new product? A different or more refined sense of a brand? Inspiration to tackle a new project? The more specific an answer to this question you can give, the better you’ll be able to communicate this to your team and the more clearly you’ll be able to target your content. It’s important to be specific here, but it’s not necessary to get too complicated. Something as simple as “a sense of our brand as approachable, knowledgable, and friendly” is entirely sufficient. We’ve talked about key descriptors a lot in articles here, and this is another case where you can pull those out. If you’re dealing with longer form content, either longer text like an ebook or white paper or something like a video series, you may have multiple answers to “why are we talking to them?”, and that’s fine. Again, just be sure not to overcomplicate things, and get as specific as you can. If at all possible, I’d suggest keeping it to one answer that’s about a specific product or service and one answer that’s about the overall brand. For example, you could say that you want your customers to come away from a how-to video series with “a sense of our brand as fun, accessible, and hip” and “inspiration to try a home decorating project as outlined in one of our videos”, because those are distinct and can be evaluated separately but aren’t going to pull the content in different directions.

Focusing and strategizing content can sometimes feel overwhelming (and don’t forget, we’re here to help), but two questions feels like something you can tackle now, right? I hope so! Think through your most successful content and see if you can answer these questions. I’m willing to bet you can in a snap.