When it comes to topics like health, personal hygiene, sex, drugs, alcohol, and politics, it’s easy to find yourself staring off into space wondering how to tackle content creation and customer outreach. You have to start somewhere, but you want to avoid offending your target market. How in the world do you approach these dilemmas?
The Art of Strategic Sensitivity
“We’re all imperfectly human, and our readers are no exception,” points out Kate Kiefer Lee, an experienced content writer and editor. “They have touchy subjects and insecurities and things they’d rather not talk about—and they bring them all to the table when they interact with our content.” From your perspective, you must know how to deal with these insecurities and sensitive topics.
While there’s no playbook that tells you how to handle every situation you come across, there are a number of common practices and techniques you can adapt to reach your audience without compromising the topic. Here are a few of the best:
1. Always Tell the Truth
The most important thing you can do when delivering sensitive information is to write the truth. Factual accuracy and compliance must be the priority. If you’re ever found to embellish the truth or falsify information to deliver a specific point, you’ll be much worse off than if you had simply listed the facts (even if they aren’t nice or comforting). Provide resources for your information and don’t back down.
Here’s a good example of how one organization tackles a difficult subject by simply telling the truth. Notice how there’s no sugarcoating the information. The data is clearly conveyed to the audience – knowing full well that the audience may not like what they hear.
2. Focus on Delivery
Delivery is everything when it comes to sensitive topics. In other words, how you say it is almost as important as what you say. Take this web page as an example. The content is very sensitive – revolving around alcoholism and drug addiction – but the content isn’t overwhelming or accusatory. Instead, it says things like, “We are here to get you back on track.” This doesn’t take away from the facts – but it does deliver the facts in a more comforting manner.
3. Avoid Pointing Fingers
There’s never any room for finger pointing when writing sensitive content. Take ownership of what you say and think about how the content you provide will impact the reader.
“We don’t know who’s reading our content. We can’t predict the fallout they’ll face. But we can communicate in a way that maintains their dignity,” Lee writes. “Before writing a message, take a minute to think about the impact it might have on your readers.”
4. Be Brief
Long-form content is certainly valuable in today’s content marketing industry, but sensitive topics shouldn’t be treated the same way. Brevity is almost always preferred when writing about these issues. There’s no need to take a long-winded approach. Cut out the filler and get straight to the point.
Don’t Shy Away from Sensitive Topics
While sensitive topics may not be easy to discuss, they’re often very important. If you’re going to be honest with your audience and truly meet them where they are, you must be able tackle these topics in a way that’s appropriate and honest.
From a writer’s perspective, taking on projects that involve sensitive issues will make you a better writer. From a business perspective, it will ultimately allow you to better connect with customers by establishing trust via honesty. Just make sure you’re going about it in the right way. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll do great.