five techniques for using content to engage your audience

approaches for creating value and awareness while dispelling confusion

A big part of writing and design is taking complicated messages and making them easy to understand, but also making them interesting and important to the audience.  Mark Twain once said: “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”

A misconception about design is that it makes boring content interesting. It doesn’t. Design can make something more approachable and draw the eye, but it’s going to take more than a nice dust jacket to make you get through a boring book.

Here are some strategies for using content to engage your audience and creating clarity

    • post_content-to-engage-01[1]Give them talking points. Literally.
      Address complexities head on by creating a series of talking points that address audience confusions or misperceptions. A list format makes it easy to just focus on the biggest sources of confusion. If it’s appropriate, frame the discussion as an exercise in advocating for your organization.
      Example: our writing and design for the Planned Parenthood newsletter addresses ideas relating to the abortion discussion and about the funding issue that was featured so prominently in recent GOP debates. Outcomes: the last newsletter outperformed their fundraising goals by a factor of 2. See the complete Planned Parenthood newsletter here.
    • post_content-to-engage-02[1]Use illustrations to communicate. Simply.
      Use visual language to express complicated concepts and relationships through visual means.
      Example: we worked with illustrator John McColloch to create a comic that described some of the complexities behind the land trust model for Kulshan Community Land Trust. The result created clarity about an issue and created an easy point of entry for the organization. See the complete KulshanCLT infocomic here.
    • post_content-to-engage-03[1]Use empathy.
      It is common knowledge that most decisions are made emotionally, so make feelings the subject of your message. If you can show your audience you understand and feel empathy for them, your connection with them will be stronger.
      Example: we used empathy-based language to help Cedar Male Medical communicate a caring, empathy-oriented approach to a sensitive and challenging personal subject matter. View the Cedar Male Medical ad designs here.
    • post_content-to-engage-04[1]Create a map.
      If people are uncertain about what comes next, show them by creating a step by by step overview of the process. Think of it as an opportunity to create a promise, and then follow through.
      Example: we used a map to create an overview of the steps involved with completing an end of life directive for the Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement. View the entire end of life map here.

    • post_content-to-engage-05[1]Use beautiful, compelling imagery.
      High-end photography or illustrations capture interest and communicate value like nothing else. Example: we used Brett Baunton‘s excellent photography to create excitement and interest about going on local hikes. 

As you think about crafting your messages, think about your audience and make things easy, interesting, and meaningful for them. As always let us know if you need any help!

Eric Shew is a graphic designer and front end developer living in Bellingham, Washington.

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115 West Magnolia, Suite 210
Bellingham, WA 98225

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