Powerful waterfall

How to write for your audience

Bonjour from deepest rural France! I’m typing this in La Muse Artists and Writers Retreat, taking a break from finishing my spy novel set in the seventeenth century.

Another mini-project has been to making a map of this charming place of Labastide-Esparbairenque. And no, after three trips here, I’ve still no idea how to pronounce it.

How to write for your audience is always a challenge. A map takes this to a whole new level, but uses many of the same steps.

What does your audience need?

The free mountain water gushing from ‘La Source’ pipe at the other end of this village is in a league of its own. People drive from miles around to collect it. After being asked by fellow guests where exactly it is, I decided to draw a map.

Tip: Is your current website or brochure answering your customers’ needs? Ask regulars for some feedback or start  noting down the questions people always ask you on the phone. What, when and how much are good starting points.

Who are they?

You need to keep your target group in mind when thinking about your content. Guests to La Muse are usually:

  • On foot

  • English speakers

  • Imaginative people who will probably enjoy some originality

Tip: Making up a persona can help. For example I made up ‘Suzie, poet from Chicago, 55. Not very confident about walking around new places. Usually drives using Sat Nav’.

Add your own twist

I love the maps in the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ children’s books, with fun names like ‘Octopus Lagoon’. I saw an example from the Museum of London’s map exhibition that named places such as ‘The swings Polly loved’.

Tip: Always keep an eye out for news stories and magazine articles. You never know when they could come in useful. Don’t be afraid to add your own voice to support your brand and make you stand out. Are you quirky? Friendly? Well-established so known lots of local knowledge?

One small step for (wo)man…


I walked the route, roughly sketching down the curves of the road. Second time around, I filled in any gaps and wandered off down some unknown roads.

Tip: Blank sheets of paper or empty spaces intimidate nearly everyone. Get something down, anything, and go from there. Just start!

What’s missing?

On the Google Map version, the roads to La Source run closer together, like a swan’s neck. However, I think my exaggerated loop helps underline the idea of taking a circular walk.

Tip: Look at other websites – not just competitors – and note down what you like and don’t like. Then apply this – or don’t – to your work.

Extra! Extra!

Initially my map was in response to being asked “How do you get to the Source?” But then what about where to take the rubbish or your postcards? What about the start points for the many hikes?

Tip: On a website, you can add hyperlinks to other sections your customer may find useful.

Sort our your framework

In pencil I drew the roads first, then pictures then labels. I included them to help support the friendly ‘brand’ of La Muse.

Tip: Plan your web page structure first, then add the graphics and the words. Make sure the graphics or photos match your company’s style.

Putting pen to paper

Giant hens on map not to scale
Hens not to scale

I traced over my pencil lines in ink in stages:

  1. The roads

  2. The pictures

  3. The words – making sure they were all either horizontal or to be read from the right

Practise makes perfect, but so does repetition. The road width, word height and picture scale are all far more uniform than my first draft. Well, apart from the giant hens of ‘Hen City’…

Tip: Are you being consistent throughout your website? Are the headers the same size and colour?

Time to reflect

As I want to expand the map to show where the glass recycling and postbox are, I’ll need to do some more research. I’d also like to road test it on the other guests and the owners.

The advice of write on one day, then publish the next is always a good one. There’s always something you’d like to change. I think I’d best add Tippex to my shopping list for Carcassonne.

Tip: Don’t be in a rush to publish. Take your time and ask others for their opinion.

Bon voyage!

The complete map:

Check out my Labastide Esparbairenque map (PDF, 12MB).

Still overwhelmed at working out how to write for your audience?

If words aren’t your strength, I can coach you or write for you. I can help plan your website navigation structure, write Google-friendly content and be a temporary website manager until it’s time to launch. Just get in touch.