Targeted copy needs smart insights

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“Know yourself – and know your audience.”
Tennessee Ernie Ford 

Yes& Lipman Hearne sat down with Tom Fitzjerrells, Senior Writer with over 30 years of experience connecting with audiences from soccer moms to spring breakers, construction workers to actuaries. We wanted his thoughts on writing for specific, niche audiences. 

“Writing isn’t typing, writing is thinking,” he said. “And it all starts with the creative brief.” 

In addition to product and brand benefits, Tom says a great brief has a laser-focus on audience insights—the key to understanding and empathizing with the target group’s hopes, dreams, fears, and desires. 

“It’s a little like an actor studying a character, I imagine. What’s important to this person? How do they feel? What motivates them?” Tom explained. “I try to find ways to project myself into someone else’s situation, walk in their shoes. What would be important to me? How would I feel about this? Would I even care? And if not, what would I need to hear to get me to pay attention?”  

Tapping into his imagination to visualize the world through another’s eyes, Tom often uses social media, message boards, and niche sites to get a deeper sense of a group’s perspective and mindset. According to him, once a writer masters this skill and puts in the time to research, they can write for almost any audience.  

For example, the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board (MMBB) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA)—two of Yes& Lipman Hearne’s longterm client partners with messaging projects that Tom has owned—cater to widely different target audiences. MMBB is a financial planning ministry serving clergy around the U.S. catering to 35-65-year-old pastors and church leaders. SOA is a professional society that also credentials aspiring actuaries through a series of exams and provides educational resources and opportunities to help actuaries further their knowledge and careers. The top of their funnel is high school math enthusiasts and college math majors. 

“I try to reduce it down to the essence. For instance, both of these audiences are concerned about their futures,” Tom said. 

While it’s important to acknowledge common motivators across audiences, Tom uses the insights from the project and creative briefs—along with his own research—to craft a distinct language style and tone that connect with each audience on their terms, ultimately meeting audiences where they are. “One way I looked at it was that pastors spend their energy serving others and need to be reminded it’s okay to think about themselves.” 

SOA’s audience, including high school math honor students, want a stable career and financial security for themselves, …”they can have that and be a force for good too,” he said. “It starts with seemingly simple insights like that.” 

Tom’s writing process is this: read the brief, do the homework, and take time to let it gestate. Comprehend the ask, the audience, the expectation, and draw in insights, thoughts, and inspiration from everywhere. “If I see something in a movie, on a bus shelter or a real-life interaction that reminds me of the brief, I’ll write it down,” he says. “The writing doesn’t start when I sit at the keyboard. It’s been going on for a while.” 

For Tom, insights are just one way to fuel his imagination. See what else, “Despite the rumors, imagination ain’t dead yet.”  

Want to know more? Reach out to us.

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