Know Thy User

Meghan Casey

Back when I spent much of my day contacting media folks with the latest and greatest from my PR clients, the best compliment I ever got from a reporter was:

"I always open your emails because I know they'll contain something I can actually use."

Why should you care about my prized compliment?

Because reporters have a lot in common with website visitors. Really.

  • Both suffer from information overload
  • Both need information or content to help them complete tasks
  • Both want to feel like content providers understand them
  • Both get annoyed by content that wastes their time or gets in their way

That's why we recommend you learn three very important things before creating a lick of web content:

  • Who the content is for
  • What information they want
  • How they want to receive information

The case of the compliment

Here's what I learned about the reporter before I ever pitched her:

  • Who the content is for. This reporter wrote a personal finance column.
  • What information they want. From reading the column regularly, I determined that the information my client had to offer – personal finance tips focused on the emotional aspects of money – was precisely what this columnist was looking for.
  • How they want to receive information. I also knew – because I asked her – that her voicemail box was perpetually full and ignored and that she preferred to get PR pitches by email.

The web content connection

Successful websites find the sweet spot between business goals and user needs. Searching for the sweet spot can be a lot of work. But it's absolutely necessary.

Finding the sweet spot

At Brain Traffic, we develop a Strategic Foundation Brief (sometimes they aren't that brief) at the beginning of every project. It includes an analysis of business goals, audience characteristics, and user needs.

First, we learn all we can about the audience – web usage, gender, family situation, etc. Then we cross- reference business goals with audience wants and needs. It's sorta like magic when it becomes apparent that the business and the users want some of the same things.

Voilà. Your starting point. And your path to site feedback that garners the compliment: "I always find the information I need when I visit your website."