I think that it is both possible to know black audiences, and to deliver the kind of content that is engaging and of value to them. These are some of the principles that I’ve learned engaging with black consumers all over the country in the past 18 years.

What is your content strategy

This question is one you direct to yourself as the content producer. Are you talking about something you care about, first of all? It shows when you don’t care. People will not engage with something that’s written by someone who has no passion for it. If you care deeply about the subject, you won’t even have to think about being one step ahead of your readers – you’ll be doing it automatically because you’ll be working hard to deepen your own understanding. Before publishing, ask yourself: does this ‘wow’ me? If not, then it won’t interest anybody reading it.

Who exactly is your audience

It is impossible to know if you’re producing good content if you have no idea who your audience is. In fact, it is not curated content if it isn’t created for a select and targeted audience. (By the way, the black audience is fractured – it is definitely not the homogenous entity some advertising suggests.) Without real interaction with real people, content is often curated and published on the basis of bad assumptions, with the predictable hit-and-miss result.

Talking to people to find out who they are, results in real information that properly guides content publishers. It also creates a two-way conversation that makes consumers feel like they can be invested in a brand because they’re being listened to. The trick to knowing your audience is getting to know them in a comfortable environment where you share a similar language. Soccer is an example of a language shared across cultural and identity divides.

Where are you finding your audience

With the spread of smartphones and mobile interaction, you can no longer only think of audiences as being spread across mediums like print, television and radio anymore. New groups and subgroups are emerging all the time, with different age groups and cultures interacting on different social media. (Think of the old joke about young people fleeing Facebook as soon as mom joins.)

These days a significant number of people engaging online via mobile phones, are black consumers. I would go as far as saying that the tipping point has been reached and passed in terms of the number of black consumers interacting online. If you don’t have online content that speaks to black consumers, you’ve already been left behind.

What value are you adding for readers?

Without doing the proper research, as discussed, you can forget about being able to add value to the lives of your readers. Nobody is going to bother reading something that does nothing for them, or speaks down to them. Intimately knowing your audience through real and constant interaction means being able to understand them and thus enrich their lives. If there is trust between you and your audience, people start telling you exactly what they expect from you.

Are you using feedback to inform future decisions?

The process of interacting with people doesn’t stop once the content has been published: you have to take it a step further and analyse how well it does. It’s become much simpler with website hit data, social media analytics and metrics. The numbers inform on a number of key questions, such as knowing whether or not the content was published on the correct platforms, or if the target audience was reached at all. This kind of feedback can then be the beginning of the cycle again with new content, helping to build knowledge about the audience and create even better stories.

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