Why ‘You’re Not Your Audience’ Isn’t Always Great Advice

“You are not your audience” reminds us to question assumptions and never stop learning about the people we aim to persuade.

But I have a bone to pick with this advice. It has a darker side, one that separates us from the people we try to serve, and enables our worst marketing selves.

If you’re a big-wig consumer-product CEO who pays others to cook, clean, and go grocery shopping, then stop reading. You are definitely not your audience.

But if you’re a content marketer who wants to provide useful, quality content for a niche — even if you’re not actually part of that niche — read on.

The “good enough” enabler

Marketers often suffer from a condition I call “good enough” blindness.

Maybe it’s for a tough client project that doesn’t lend itself to interesting concepts. Maybe you’re plumb out of inspiration but need to pay the bills. Or maybe you come up with a “great idea” that ends up being, well, a little cheesy.

It’s okay; we’ve all been there.

As content marketers, we have a job to do: sell a product (or service).

And if we’re able to do that with some semblance of quality, we say, “That’s good enough!” and publish the content.

There’s nothing wrong with publishing “good enough” content every now and then. After all, the best thing you can do to become a better writer is to keep writing. They won’t all be gems.

The “blindness” happens when we’ve separated ourselves from our audience so much that we can’t see when our “good enough” content is actually bad content.

In this situation, “you are not your audience” is a problem. It allows you to believe that you and your audience are different — sodifferent — that you can’t understand them.

In that psychological distance, we begin to rationalize: “Well, this is what my target audience likes, and they’re completely different from me. So it’s okay if I would never waste my time reading it. Because it’s what they like.”

A writer who falls into this trap writes content that’s “relatable” but empty; it shares information but somehow misses the mark.

It’s the difference between following a formula and writing with sincerity. The difference between a “persona” and a real person.

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