How to Walk a Mile In Your User’s Shoes

If you want to improve your messaging skills, here’s your homework: read Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech. Or most any other book intended for young adults, for that matter. YA novels are an exercise in how to write from your audience’s perspective.

Aside from the fact that reading fiction promotes empathy, there’s another reason young adult books are valuable for content strategy. Unlike adult fiction, YA books are not written by a member of the audience.

Write From Your Audience’s Perspective

As content strategists, we try to get into our customers’ heads. Similarly, though authors (generally speaking) are adults, the best YA authors manage to inhabit the mindset of a twelve or thirteen year old. This is even trickier than thinking as an adult customer or client. Though an early-teen believes he or she is an adult, they make altogether different assumptions. We can learn a lot from how an author moves past their own knowledge.

Walk Two Moons is delightfully meta from a content strategy perspective. A main theme of the book is learning how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. That is exactly what we need to do in order to create appropriate messaging! When you write from your audience’s perspective, you put yourself in their shoes.

Words Matter in Messaging

During my recent reread of Walk Two Moons, I read the classroom questions at the end of the book. One caught my eye:

“Mrs. Winterbottom baked and cleaned and did laundry and grocery shopping. I had a funny feeling that Mrs. Winterbottom did not actually like all this baking and cleaning and laundry and shopping, and I’m not quite sure why I had that feeling because if you just listened to the words she said, it sounded as if she were Mrs. Supreme Housewife.”

What kinds of words does Mrs. Winterbottom use? How does she talk, and what exactly does that tell us about her? 

I love those questions. What kinds of words do we use? And what does the way someone talks tell us about them?

How Can You Write Like a YA Author?

Take a look at your recent messaging work. It will help you to write from your audience’s perspective.

  • Are you embodying the customer’s mindset?
  • Are you walking in your audience’s shoes?
  • How can your tone imply something that the words alone don’t say?

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