Are You Overlooking This Cornerstone of a Smart Content Strategy?

We are kicking off a three-part series on content strategy, starting with this episode. We begin with an element of content strategy that often gets overlooked, but that is crucial to understanding your audience intimately enough to influence it.

Yesterday, Brian Clark published a highly anticipated answer to a question that’s been on a lot of entrepreneurial and marketing minds.

If you missed it, that question is: Isn’t it time for more power and less hassle from WordPress … without breaking the bank?

The answer is yes, of course, and he provides the solution — a turnkey, hosted platform for content management that is already providing the technological engine for many smart content strategies across the globe.

But technology is just technology. It will do its part reliably, but you have to do yours too. That’s why Brian released the New Rainmaker content library well before the platform … and why the library is still available for free. He wants you to have the knowledge to actually make good use of the tools — which, after all, is the Copyblogger way.

That is why we are kicking off the relaunch of The Lede with a three-part series on content strategy, starting today.

And we begin with an element of content strategy that often gets overlooked … but that is crucial to understanding your audience intimately enough to influence it.

In this episode, Demian Farnworth and I discuss …

  • How content strategy begins with knowing your audience — not just on a statistical or demographic level, but intimately
  • What worldviews are and how to identify them
  • How Jerod Morris’s worldview of cooperation differs from, say, Niccolò Machiavelli’s
  • How worldviews differ from personas (it’s an important difference)
  • How worldviews should influence decisions when starting a business
  • What a real-world example of discovering an audience’s worldview sounds like

And, of course, how to put your audience first. (We wouldn’t have it any other way.)

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The Show Notes



Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

The Lede: Many People Overlook This Crucial Fundamental of a Smart Content Strategy (Do You?)

Jerod Morris: Welcome back, everybody, to The Lede: A podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I’m your host, Jerod Morris.

We took a hiatus over the summer, but we’re back, and quite happy to be back. If you are a new listener, welcome. We appreciate you tuning in, and if you’ve been listening for awhile, thank you very much for your support and for being here, ready and waiting, for new episodes.

As long-time listeners know, our goal with each episode is to deliver a bite-sized chunk of useful advice that you can take action on as soon as you’re done listening to improve your relationship with your audience and grow your online business.

To kick off our return, Demian Farnworth and I are going to talk about content strategy. It will be a three-part series, and it begins with this episode: Exactly where you would expect a Copyblogger series about content strategy to begin, with the audience.

It seems like it has been an eternity since we did our last episode, but it’s actually only been a few months. I’m excited to welcome Demian back as we get going here with the next season of The Lede. How are you doing, Demian?

Demian Farnworth: I’m doing fine. Hello, everyone. Glad to be back. Three months seems like a long time, so it’s exciting to get back and back into the groove, and hear you roar a few more times, Jerod.

Jerod: Yes. I’m sure that you’ve been studying up on your pop culture references during the downtime, right?

Demian: That’s right. That’s right.

Thank you for listening

Jerod: I do want to say, really quickly, before we jump into today’s topic: Just how much we appreciate all the kind words and comments that we’ve gotten from people who listen, who have been asking when the episodes were going to come back.

Getting your kind words definitely has motivated us and gotten us excited to get back with it, so we just want to say thank you to everybody out there for those.

Demian: Yes. Thank you.

Jerod: And with that, let’s get started. We’re doing a three-part series here on content strategy, and this is the first part of that series.

What is a worldview?

Jerod: And if you follow Copyblogger, it won’t surprise you that the first element of our content strategy series is going to cover knowing your audience, and not just knowing your audience from a statistical or a demographic level, but knowing your audience intimately.

Knowing what they stand for, what they live for. In other words, understanding their worldviews. And Demian, you wrote a great article about this a few months ago that will certainly be linked in the show notes, and I want to break apart some of the ideas that you talk about in that article, and so let’s just start with that big picture.

What is a worldview, and also how is a worldview different from a persona?

Demian: That’s a great question. A great way to start. A worldview is, basically, a descriptive model of how you see the world, and it answers some pretty basic questions like, what should we do next? What is true and false? How should we attain our goals?

There’s a philosopher named James Sire. He wrote a book a number of years ago called The Universe Next Door, which is a quote from the E.E. Cummings poem.

In The Universe Next Door, he identifies seven basic worldviews, and these are typically like Deism, or Naturalism, Existentialism, New Age, and Post Modern, and these are the things that people — they don’t develop these ideas about their world systematically.

It’s not like you sit down and say, “I want to be a Post-Modern Existentialist.” Rather, it’s something that develops within us through how we’re raised and the household in which we’re raised — it’s influenced by our friends, our education, our experiences. It can be influenced by a book that you read as a youngster.

And the thing to remember, too, is that worldviews develop in one direction, and they become very difficult to change as you get older. So the thing to remember as an advertiser is that you’re not after trying to change somebody’s worldview. You’re simply trying to get in alignment with their worldview, if that makes sense.

Identifying worldviews

Jerod: So, for example, me personally. I have a worldview that the most important part of communication is being audience-focused. Focusing on the person who you’re talking to.

And that has developed because of sales training I received in my first job after college, and reading Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and joining Copyblogger, and learning that training.

So when you talk about how that systematically develops, is that what you mean? That I’ve developed that worldview, and now it’s much more stringent in my mind, harder to change, but if someone is trying to tap into me or sell to me or communicate to me, they need to understand that and communicate to that part of me.

Demian: Right. So what you describe, I would say that’s atypical. Most people, when they learn that they have a worldview to even begin with, because I would say most people don’t even realize they have a worldview until they come across this idea of worldviews.

Then they realize that, “Oh, this is how I think and not everyone else thinks that way.”

What you’ve done is that you’ve identified this. This is important to me, and so I’m going to pursue this path. Your worldview is not so much communication, but it’s the importance of people. You put an emphasis on people.

So you’re actually — what’s above the communication part is this idea of how you view how the world works, right?

The world is not a world of competition, but it’s one of cooperation where you have to get along with people, and the best way to get along with people is to communicate clearly with them, to listen to them, to understand what they need to hear from you. So all that is created through a worldview.

For instance, Stephen Covey — have you read his book, Seven Habits?

Jerod: Yes.

Demian: In that, he has the view of trying to understand first before you communicate, and a lot of this is people-centric. He has a certain worldview, and that’s why he would come up with these sort of habits. He would see that world.

Machiavelli, who wrote the book The Prince, which was satirical and in some sense a social criticism, but he had a different worldview. He saw the world as one of competition.

Of course, he was dealing with the world of politics, but that was completely different. So in that sense, as an advertiser, as someone who’s trying to resonate with you, understanding how you view and how you think is important.

It’s part of the process of coming up and discovering what your worldview is. Because again, it’s going above and beyond just the fact that communication is important to you.

Why is communication important to you? That really comes down to when we emphasize the point that communication is important to you because you realize cooperation is good, and you realize people are good. It’s nice to have community.

Why is that? It’s because you view human beings as being decent people who have and deserve certain rights.

So you want to be able to deliver that, and you want to be able to help people and inspire people. And that’s all built around your worldview.

Worldviews versus personas

Jerod: So how would you contrast that, then, with personas?

Demian: Okay. So a persona is another tool, and really like I mentioned in the article, a persona helps you figure out things like the buying behaviors. Why do they shop at high-end versus a Walmart? What are their certain attitudes that they have about shopping? What are the certain attitudes they have about politics?

A persona sort of helps you fill out demographics, psychographics, of your particular audience. What the worldview does is tell you why they believe that.

It’s useful information both ways, and what I think happens at this stage here — I’ve heard this as I was moving through these three different articles, and we were talking about worldview, then we were talking about empathy map, and we were talking about story telling — and some of the complaints were, “Well, that just seems like a lot you’re throwing onto people. First you tell me ‘worldview,’ and now it’s ‘personas,’ what else am I going to have to deal with?”

The point being is that you should be doing all of it. You don’t have to do it all at once, you should be developing personas. If you develop a worldview, you’re going to develop part of the persona. If you develop a persona, you’re going to key in, and you’re going to know what kinds of questions to ask when you’re developing the worldview.

So you might say, let’s focus on a persona right now. Then you create the persona, then you work from that for a period of time. Then you tweak and change the persona based on your experiments, and you then turn toward the worldview.

What is their worldview? Then you figure that out, and then you go and run your marketing for a few months or a few years, and then you stop again.

You might create an empathy map at that point. So all of this, the goal is, like you said in the beginning, is understanding your audience. You as an advertiser should have a growing and growing, over the years, knowledge base of who your customer is.

It’s just like a marriage. You’re constantly figuring out who that person is so you can have a great relationship with them, and the same thing with your audience and using personas and worldviews.

The worldview’s role when starting a business

Jerod: Let’s say people are going to start a site or start a business. Should they be sitting down and trying to define these worldviews in the beginning? Is there a better process to get some kind of data, like the demographic information you were talking about earlier?

Getting that, and then saying “Why?” And continuing to try and dig the “why?”

What’s the process? When should this start, and is there a correct order that it needs to go in?

Demian: I wouldn’t say there’s a correct order. I think it’s helpful. It depends on your personality, too. I think for me it’s always been — let’s say, for example, that you want to start a blog.

You have an idea, and you have a direction you want to go. And then, of course, you could sit down and think, “Who is going to be my audience?”

Well, you probably have a hunch, and you could write that hunch down, and you could maybe sort of script out a nebulous kind of idea of who your audience is. And then go and start writing a couple of posts, or building the audience, and seeing how your interaction with the community is changing your view of the audience. Because it will change.

Every successful marketer and advertiser understands that. They think they know their audience, until they actually interact with them, and then they realize that they’re asking certain things and are looking for certain things, and they want certain things. So it’s really kind of a trial-and-error process, like the scientific method. You have a hunch, you go out there and test the hunch.

How does your hunch stand up to reality? If it’s completely blown out of the water, then you reengineer the way you think about your audience based upon reality, and then you continue more.

Say you’ve run this blog for several months, and then you can sit down once you have that audience. Because here’s the thing you can’t have: You can’t do a worldview without having an audience first, because it’s part of the process of getting that worldview.

Like conducting one-on-one interviews. If you don’t have an audience, you can’t do the interviews. Or reading the comments on your blog. If you have a hunch of who your audience is, you can go and study Amazon reviews.

But certainly, once you have an audience, you can create a survey with Google Docs or Survey Monkey, and ask them the specific worldview questions.

I gave you a list in that article. You can create a survey and ask those questions once you have that audience. Even if you only have 100 people. And if you get 15–20 people who respond, you’re going on something, and you can tweak it based upon that.

Of course, you can eavesdrop on real-life conversations or if you actually have a business and customer support, you can analyze your support mails, or review your testimonials.

In essence, it’s monitoring your audience on the social web and across forums.

A real-world example of discovering your audience’s worldview

Jerod: And here’s kind of a real-world example for that, because I was thinking about this as we were prepping for today’s episode. Kind of how has evolved over the past few months, right? My side project.

Demian: Mmm-hmm.

Jerod: So when I started that, I had an idea for the content. How balancing pride and humility can help you in your life. And I had an idea of who might read that and who might be attracted to that, but over the course of the last three to four months, as you said, from comments, and from e-mails, and from conversations, that understanding of the audience has really evolved.

So I jotted down a few notes here. I kind of did this just as practice, like “let me try and define the worldview of a Primility reader really quick …”

Demian: That’s great.

Jerod: And you tell me if this is what a worldview is — if it isn’t digging deeply enough, whatever. But here are just a few of the notes that I jotted down.

“Primility readers believe they are capable of achieving more tomorrow than they did today, and they believe that the key factor that will allow them to do this is their own mentality and attitude.

“In other words, they take personal responsibility and accountability for everything that happens to them. So they are always seeking methods of self-improvement to give them that margin of improvement from one day to the next, building a better life in this way, brick by brick.

“They also believe that success means more and tastes sweeter when it involves lifting other people up, not just themselves.”

Is that a worldview, or does that not go deep enough?

Demian: No, that’s perfect. That’s absolutely perfect because some of the things that you said within there, for example, taking responsibility for their actions and realizing that their success is really sort of on their shoulders, involves a worldview that emphasizes individuality, but it also emphasizes hard work, and it emphasizes that there is opportunity out in the world that anybody can succeed, which in contrast, you know, some people might have a victim mentality, and have almost the opposite sort of mentality.

Like a fatalistic mentality: “I can never do anything, why resist the world and the bad luck that always comes upon me?” So yeah. That’s perfect.

The continual process of tapping into a worldview

Jerod: So as we kind of wrap up this first episode — man, the time goes quickly. I forgot how fast the time goes when we do these.

Demian: Yeah.

Jerod: So what is one take-away? Obviously, this is part of a three-part series. We’re going to talk about empathy and building empathy maps, and storytelling.

So what is one action item that you think people can take away here in terms of worldview that can help them, as soon as tomorrow, communicate better with their audiences?

Demian: Well, I think to do just what you did with your audience. Just sit down and think about — what do I know about my audience, and pooling the resources if you have them to help them sort of write that out.

If they don’t have an audience, if they just have an idea, sort of think through the ideal person with whom they’re trying to communicate.

So the take-away for that, yes, is to sit down. Do that same exercise. How long did it take you to do that?

Jerod: Obviously, the research went over the course of three or four months.

Demian: Sure.

Jerod: But it took me a few minutes of just free-flow writing.

Demian: Right. So if you’ve been doing this for years, then again, you probably have it in your mind but you’ve just never sat down and sort of codified it, in that sense.

For you, it’s taken a couple of months to learn your audience, then once you sit down — and if you don’t have that, sit down and forecast what you want your audience to look like?

That may change as you watch the people who gravitate, because again, you could be presenting ideas and attract an entirely different crowd, and you have to be okay with that because you’re going down the path you want to go along.

Is the audience the right people you want to attract? Is that who you’re trying to reach?

And so through that experience you come to realize who your audience is, and that view of who they thought they were will, obviously, change. You have to be okay with that, though, too.

And you might even be surprised by who your audience is, but again, you’re not actually trying to change that worldview. You’re actually just trying to tap into that.

Jerod: Okay. One more quick follow-up to that. So obviously, this was in my head. I obviously had an understanding of this. Why is it important to write it down? If I already kind of know it, and I’m gaining this knowledge over the course of time, why is it so important to codify it, to write it out?

Demian: I think because it helps you focus. For me, I think having it out on paper helps to kind of focus and center all your energy on that thought, to say, “This is it, this is what it is.” If you never do that, you’re not going to lose or anything like that. But I think it’s helpful just as an exercise.

“Who is my audience?” And it’s an exercise, too, in the sense of what kind of content, what kind of product can I create for them? If you sit down and you write that out, that’s probably at most two or three paragraphs. You might be full of different ideas and directions in which you can go with content or products.

Jerod: All right. Perfect. Well, Demian, awesome to get back on the horse here with The Lede, and looking forward to doing the rest of the series, and then the many exciting episodes that we have planned beyond that.

Demian: I’m looking forward too, Jerod.

Jerod: All right. Talk to you soon, man.

Demian: Hey, buddy. Take care.

Jerod: Thank you for listening to this episode of The Lede. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider giving the show a rating or a review on iTunes, or pass it along to a friend or colleague. We’d greatly appreciate it.

Put your audience first

And if you want to dig deeper on the topics that Demian and I discussed in this episode, and that we will discuss in the future, I highly recommend that you go sign up for Brian Clark’s free New Rainmaker training course. It is a two-week course sent to you via e-mail that includes seven lessons and three webinars.

Now, at some point, this won’t be offered for free anymore, so it would behoove you to head over to as soon as you can to get your hands on this valuable, free education series that shows you step-by-step how to move beyond marketing and embrace the power that comes from building a true audience asset.

We’ll be back in two weeks with another episode of The Lede. Until then, keep learning and keep putting your audience first. Talk to you soon, everybody.


*Credits: Both the intro (“Bridge to Nowhere” by Sam Roberts Band) and outro songs (“Down in the Valley” by The Head and the Heart) are graciously provided by express written consent from the rights’ owners.