4 surprising ways to deliver content your learners want to receive

Creating content which is aligned to what your learners want but which delivers effective information remains a challenge. Can we apply the ideas transforming marketing, sales and design thinking to lift engagement and deliver content which users want to pull, share and participate?

The essence is simple:- create a clear way to align the information you want to share to the motivations and goals of your audience. In practice, there are many factors determining how this can best be accomplished. This post explores 4 themes which have come from our research into effective coaching and knowledge sharing.

Firstly what I want is completely irrelevant. It’s all about what you want, when you want it and the pace at which you move.

This is true whether your audience is made up of customers, employees or students. As Daniel Pink says “We are all in Sales nowand with that comes the need to translate your intentions and objectives into content which your audience wants to and can connect with; it resonates with their perspective on the world. For example in this post, I’m focusing on the fact you would like to increase your audience engagement and participation in order to improve their knowledge.

Sharing information with someone is easy, you find something you want to share and send it out. However this makes a large assumption; do they want to receive it, are they interested, is it relevant, is the ‘why’ clear, is there an angle which stops me dismissing this?

Simon Sinek has written and talked at length on the value of presenting clarity around WHY, it is the ‘why’ which motivates you to action. If you haven’t seen this I urge you to stop reading and watch it as he beautifully illustrates the way in which humans make decisions.

It appears paradoxical that if you want people to come to your way of thinking, your service or your class then you need to start by going to them. Getting your audience to participate, to do more than just attend, is about connecting to them in the way they want or need. That may involve being disruptive, abrasive or supportive. In fact, with this new sense of perspective the options you can explore to cut through become much more creative.

So what does this have to do with my audience?

You’ve identified there is a problem or initiative which you need to educate your audience on. Perhaps you’ve been tasked with solving the problem and educating your team. You took the time to understand the situation, but how much time do you spend on understanding your audience?

  1. Can you align to their motivations?
  2. Do they know they have a problem?
  3. Is it a priority: today / this week / this month?
  4. Is there a felt pain or risk to go without this information?
  5. Do they understand and value the outcome you are providing?
  6. Is it better than alternative ways? Note that the alternatives should include apathy as this is often the biggest barrier to getting started.

It’s worth taking a moment to work through these questions and sketch down some answers. A much better approach is to get out the office and speak to a few people who are in your potential audience group.

Whilst designing our content sharing platform we selected a pilot group of people from across media, automotive and health. Through interviews, Skype calls and chats on Slack this approach identified the following patterns.

The majority of people don’t know they have a problem.

It is, therefore, necessary to create an environment of doubt in order to encourage a receptive audience. This can be used highly effectively in the lead up to a programme or launch to increase demand, curiosity and interest. Try creating a set of 10-12 pithy statements which you can share and use to show your target audience where they have gaps in their knowledge.

Problem: Users don’t know what they don’t know
Solution: Sharing short sentences which surface the gaps in people’s knowledge and present a shared call to action
Outcome: Raised attention & awareness

Not another destination

In our discussions, it became clear that no one wants to remember yet another destination. Any helpful resource should firstly be located through the existing channels and tools I use today.

The benefit to the user is that it flows with my daily rhythm. I’m likely to be more receptive and the information is appropriate to what I’m doing.

Problem : Helpful resources should be surfaced in the right place and right time.
Solution: Make the content visible, it should be findable from my channels or places I visit.
Outcome: There is a strong chance you will stumble onto the content. From here you can engage the user. Encourage participation and anticipate user needs with helpful tools like ‘read it later’, sharing to peers, commenting etc. The compounded outcome is that you also start to get actionable data and user insights.

Establish authenticity

Now that you have the user’s attention what are you going to do with this? You have information you would like to share and the need for the user to absorb this. But before you do let’s think about the opportunity you have and how you could help the user beyond just sharing information.

  • With the user’s attention, it is beneficial to provide a face to the information you are sharing as this establishes authenticity, adds gravitas and begins a conversation, not just a transmission.
  • Who or where has it come from? Add an author with a short (5-10 word) biography.
  • Is it relevant to me, who else has this, can the user identify as a member of this peer group? Add a mechanism to feedback and discuss and encourage contribution by seeking ideas.
  • Offer related content. Not a new idea but yet surprisingly this is not as common within organisations and learning platforms as it should be.

Problem: How to encourage wider usage and build ongoing helpfulness
Solution: Recognise the author and the credibility, allow and encourage participation and sharing, promote just a couple of personally curated related resources.
Outcome: You’ve just delighted a person, offered an engaging knowledge sharing point and started to build a helpful platform.

Relevance matters

Is the information up to date? Content stored across organisations is often created with great enthusiasm but is often neglected after the initial creation. In each interview, this cropped up as a complaint about seeing information which was out of date or wrong.

Problem: Users don’t trust information and have a strong sense of stale/stagnant content.
Solution: Deliver the information in a personalised summary which understands what each user has already seen and shows them the changes. This combined with the recommendations of previous options provides a powerful mechanism to maintain and push delta changes.
Outcome: Updates and improvements to existing content are valuable to both existing and new users. Each user gets an update of just the change they may have missed thus reducing over communicating.


There is a potential to make a difference in the way in which we share information. Technology can engage in new, delightful ways which offer the possibility to amplify not dilute our approach to learning.

  1. Focus on building awareness and raising interest – Ask: Would I want to do this knowing what I know?
  2. Reach out to people in the places they hang out in already.
  3. Deliver content as if the individual sharing the information was sat next to you, and he’s your long-term friend and coach.
  4. If it really matters then embrace connection and encourage participation, attendance and assessment are not enough to make a difference.

Was this thought provoking? Comment or tell me what you think Contact me at [email protected] or @redjamjar on twitter.