Lessons for writers from the Meredith Corporation

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You may not know the name “Meredith Corporation,” but you probably know some of their publications, like Better Homes and Gardens. David Pitt just wrote an article in Inc. Magazine about Meredith. The title, “Magazine Publisher Is a Lesson in Knowing Your Audience,” incorporates one of the most important lessons you can learn from Meredith.

Lesson One: Learn about your reader

Understanding your reader is the key to writing success. Meredith has database of 100 million women, with “an average of 800 datapoints for each one.”

You may not have any database at all, but you can still find out the important things about your readers. Here are some questions to ask and answer.

What areas are they interested in, where you also have something to say?

How do they seek information?

How do they use information?

The key is not to think of your readers as the data points in a demographic snapshot. Think of them as individual people who are constantly seeking and using information that will help them do things better. Identify someone who represents the group, then write to that person.

Lesson Two: Understand your brand

Meredith has two kinds of brands. Each magazine or digital product has a brand. Readers may not even know about Meredith when they subscribe to one of the company’s magazines. That’s one kind of brand.

The other kind is the Meredith brand that the company presents to people who buy advertising. They can offer advertising opportunities across their entire array of publications and platforms.

Ask yourself “What do the people I write for know about me?” and “How do they think of me?”

Lesson Three: Look for smart ways to extend your brand

There are certainly dumb ways to try to extend a brand. My personal favorite is the Bic line of disposable pantyhose. Compare that to the Better Homes and Gardens brand that appears on thousands of products sold at WalMart generating $2 billion a year.

Bottom Line

You probably won’t become a publishing giant like the Meredith Corporation, but you can learn important lessons about knowing your customer and your brand(s) and apply them to make your writing and business better.

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