Best of Digital Summit 2020: 3M’s Alennah Curran on the Secrets of People-Driven Content


We’re celebrating and spotlighting some of our favorite, highest rated sessions from our Digital Summit at Home events from 2020. In this recap and free video session, we feature Alennah Curran (@JuntaeDeLane), a Content Analyst from the 3M Corporation with bonus UX superpowers. At our DS at Home in November (and again in December), Alennah shared a bunch of valuable “secrets” for creating better people-driven content.

In a world where everyone is exposed to thousands of pieces of content a day, it can be hard to create content that captures your audience’s attention. At Digital Summit at Home in November, Alennah Curran, Content Analyst from 3M, dove into the importance of people-driven content and shares her secrets for creating content that is interesting, digestible, and understandable for readers. 

Foundational writing tactics (02:21)

Alennah shares three tactics that will help you create content that resonates with your audience. 

#1 Start with a Thesis:  (03:00)

All of your writing should contain a thesis. Your thesis should contain 3 things: 

  • Explanation of your topic
  • Your position on the topic
  • The reasons you have for taking that position

PRO TIP: Alennah suggests using the tool Thesis Generator to help you develop your thesis. 

#2 Consider Readability: (07:26)

The average American reads at a seventh-grade level, so we should be writing in a way that’s easy to understand. That means using short sentences, simple words, and breaking up content into digestible chunks.

PRO TIP: Alennah suggested the tool Readable to generate readability scores on your writing. 

#3 Use Empathy: (10:26)

Forge a connection with readers by understanding their thoughts and feelings. To write with empathy, you need to interact directly with your readers to experience their problems and understand their pain points. 

PRO TIP: Get as many details on the following to help you empathize with your readers more: 

  • Skill level
  • Age range
  • Knowledge gaps
  • Needs
  • Challenges
  • Interests

Auditing your “enemies” (13:41)

Your “enemies” are the people who are not currently reading your content but have the potential to read it. Using the individuals that actively find ways to say they don’t like your content is the best way to gain useful insights to improve your content.  Alennah suggested the opt-in method (14:28) for finding these individuals. 

Once you find these people, see if you can have short 1:1 conversations with them to understand exactly why your current content does not resonate with them. You’ll want to understand three things: 

  • Who they are
  • What do they read
  • What would catch their eye

Applying design thinking (19:29)

Bringing her background and expertise in UX Design, Alennah suggesting teams utilize the Design Thinking Framework (19:38) as a framework for writing specific campaigns. Here’s how you’ll use the design steps and leverage them for writing: 

  • Define: This is when you define objectives for your writing
  • Ideate: Here you will want to think of all the possible ways you can tell a story. 
  • Prototype: In this phase, you will start executing your ideas by writing quickly without getting attached to one idea. 
  • Test: This is when you will test your best work so far, then look at metrics to determine what needs to be changed. 
  • Empathize: In this phase, you will continue to empathize with your audience to further refine your work and make improvements. 

Push your respective envelope (26:50)

Finally, you should embrace the idea of pushing your respective envelope. To push your envelope, you should master your style, push the boundaries, then test and get feedback. Everyone can push the envelope within the boundaries of their brands. 

By following these four guidelines, you can easily create people-driven content that empathizes and connects with your audience. 

To hear from experts like Alennah and hundreds of others that teach at Digital Summit, check out our 2021 calendar of virtual and in-person events.

Kick off 2021 with a bang and join us on January 27 for Digital Summit Go!, a FREE 1-day online event featuring 12 of our best speakers. Hear 12 rapid fire talks on Content, Social, Email, and SEO with tons of actionable takeaways to help your marketing soar in the new year. Did we mention that it’s FREE? 🙂