Content marketing is about creating accessible content catering to your audience with the end goal of funneling in leads.
There’s one great way of figuring out what your audience wants, and it involves an underrated tool: listening.
Listen to subject-matter experts. Listen to your product teams. Listen to your sales team. Listen to as many people as you can in your company.
This isn’t the type of listening you’d do in a second-year English literature course while sitting in the back of the lecture hall.
This involves active listening. The type of listening that demands your participation and follow ups.
As a former journalist, I can attest that journalism schools teach you this skill. But it’s a skill anyone can learn. Here are a few ways you can begin to actively listen.
Enjoy The Silence
Ever notice how many of us want to fill those voids of silence in conversation with more talking? It’s because long pauses of silence can get uncomfortable.
Yet it’s in these long pauses you can get great bits of information from those you interview. If you jump in to kill the silence, it could make the conversation less illuminating. And if you’re interviewing someone for a story, that means the story may miss valuable insights.
Next time you’re stuck in a spell of silence during a conversation, don’t be so keen on jumping in to talk.
Think Like A Journalist
When reporters are taught to speak to sources, they ask open-ended questions. These are questions that get the reporter to participate in active listening. The questions are: Who? What? Where? Why? When? How?
Get used to asking these questions. They create responses that you can delve farther into with your interviewees. It’s important to avoid asking questions that lead to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers, which don’t really add much to your story. Nor do they utilize your active listening skills.
There Are No Dumb Questions
I noticed a dramatic shift between the culture of journalism school and business school. When I was completing my undergrad in journalism, I was taught there are no dumb questions.
Teaching this to budding reporters allows them to ask questions without inhibition. This helps you get to the bottom of a story.
Meanwhile, when I was completing my MBA, I noticed that business school students were more prone to asking questions that seemed tailored. There was a hesitancy around asking questions that might make you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
As content marketers, however, we should think more like journalists, and not worry about asking questions that we don’t have the answers to no matter how dumb they sound.
This is especially important as many content marketers work in technical spaces where language is often weighed down by complex terms and jargon.
Most may pretend they understand the jargon, but you, dear content marketer, aren’t one to pretend.
It’s important to remember that if you don’t know the answer to a question, chances are members of your audience won’t either. And by asking questions that comes across as dumb, you’ll find yourself participating in active listening as you listen to your source’s response to a question they’re rarely asked. You might even get more colourful quotes for your story.
Most importantly, you’ll be creating content that adds value for your listeners and readers. All thanks to your wonderful questions and listening skills.
I help companies grow by telling their stories.