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Branching Into Content Creation? Take a Lesson in Audience Engagement Courtesy of Lady Whistledown

Megan Hill

In the current crowded digital landscape, many consumers are suffering from over-consumption and desensitisation. To create content that cuts through the noise and truly resonates with an audience, one must think outside the box.

Help is often found in the most unlikely of places, this time in the form of Bridgerton's infamous gossip columnist—Lady Whistledown.

Whether you believe her audacious, shameless, unethical or genius—one thing you can't deny is that Whistledown knows how to engage an audience. Her scandalous publication captivates the entire fictionalised high-class society of Regency-era London!

Lady Whistledown operates anonymously, meaning her success is not based on prior affiliations with her name and she certainly doesn't rely on social media reach or SEO manipulation. So just how does she do it?

We've examined her scandal sheets to find out exactly what it is that keeps the ton hooked...

Oh and the best news? Binging Bridgerton now counts as research!

Due diligence

"Be forewarned dear reader, I certainly know you." - Lady Whistledown

Slightly ominous though this statement may be, it explains why Lady W's content is always a hit. She knows her readers—private scandals and all.

Her content exploits the current interests, anxieties and longings of her audience. There is also an element of recognisability in her work—familiar faces, places and events all help to satisfy the universal desire to read stories that one recognises themselves in. Though we're not suggesting your writing should unearth private affairs and tarnish reputations, there is a lesson here in knowing who you're writing for and what they want to read.

Having a clear reader archetype in mind when writing will keep your content relevant, relatable and entertaining. What topics are most important to them right now? What do they want to gain from your content? What other content are they consuming? What TikTok subculture are they browsing? Do they actually know what TikTok is...?  Where do they spend their Friday nights?

In-depth answers to questions like these will help shape your content strategy, influence your tone of voice and reveal interesting angles. Remember—people want to read stories that they recognise themselves in, so you first have to recognise your audience.

Case in point: Laura is a personal shopper and style consultant, using Instagram stories as a way to gauge the attitudes and shopping habits of her audience. Her "shop/drop" feature gathers audience feedback on new high street collections whilst the "let's chat" highlight opens up intra-community discussion on topical conversations, such as the return to retail post-pandemic. Laura gathers insight in a playful, interactive way and can channel this feedback into her direct work with clients.

Don't just find a niche—create one

Whistledown noticed the ton's insatiable hunger for gossip and she decided to capitalise on it.  Though historians attest that scandal sheets were rife in the Regency era, within the realms of Bridgerton, Lady W is the only one in the game.

Whisteldown's intentions may be morally dubious, but her resolve is unwavering. She knows what she wants to achieve with her content and she sticks with it—even when threatened with a warrant for her arrest.*

Analyse your prospective audience—what information do they want/need that is not currently readily available to them? That is your niche. Carving out a unique take that reflects the shared interests of you and your audience will give your content clarity and relevance that, over time, will ensure you develop an engaged, supportive community.

Case in point:  From Joe Biden's logo rebrand to the way in which memes now drive political narratives, "politics today is visual" and yet the phenomenon is, or rather, was rarely analysed—until Hunter Schwarz found his niche. Schwarz set up his newsletter, Yello, as a platform to "take a deeper look at the images that shape our politics and the stories behind them." Schwarz found a loyal audience in designers, media professionals and creative government officials who never knew they needed this content before.

*Visualist will not be made liable for any arrests.

Think about your distribution

Lady Whistledown follows two simple rules in her distribution process:

  • Consistency. Printed overnight and distributed early morning—usually following an influential social event.
  • Accessibility. The papers are quite literally placed in the palms of the reader. Direct and unmissable.

The lesson here—meet your audience where they are, when they expect you to.

Host, and more importantly, promote your brand on platforms that are easily accessible to your audience. Don't wait for an audience to seek you out, land your content right under their nose. (Return to due diligence if you're struggling to locate where your readers naturally reside)

Consistent commentary on current affairs and social attitudes makes you a reliable source of information that your readers will return to when they want an understanding of trending topics. Note that you don't have to report on 'news' to make content timely.

Case in point: Present & Correct is a London based stationery shop, but rather than wait for the right customer to idle past the storefront—they went and scouted them out themselves on social media. Their coherent, aesthetically pleasing feeds quickly resonated with fellow minimalist, pastel-loving, organisation fanatics. Their content is a reliable moment of joy in a routine scroll and their regular posts mean their brand is consistently subliminally advertised. Present and Correct indeed, the brand maintains a strong, supportive presence in its community. They regularly share the work of creators who embody the brand aesthetic and tailor their in-house content to current social affairs, such as the recent spring equinox or commentary on a favourite film at the Oscars.

Prove your value

Lady W, being the "brilliant woman of business" that she is, knew she had to give her audience something of value for free before attempting to extract value herself. The infamous society paper was once distributed free of charge but, as the eagle-eyed amongst us will have noticed, eventually Ton residents had to offer up their change in order to get their hands on an edition and this season she has once again upped her prices!

Once Whistledown's reputation was assured, she was able to parlay her engaged audience into a tangible stream of income. Perhaps monetising is not your end goal but, if it is, it doesn't necessarily have to be where you begin. Create value before you consider cashing in on your content.

Case in point: Antonio Carusone started his blog, AisleOne, as a simple creative outlet. Though Carusone had sustained an engaged audience for quite some time—it was sixteen years before he began offering subscriber-only content. Regular readers still have access to the valuable insight and entertainment that first attracted them to the platform however there is now the option to subscribe and receive novelty additions: Spotify playlists, exclusive downloadable posters and even custom clothing. Antonio's long-time gratuitous offerings now compel his community to give back.

Talk of the ton

Whistledown's reputation relies heavily on word-of-mouth, yours will rely on the share button—but the same principle stands: create content that people feel compelled to talk about. Content that starts conversations.

If your content leaves readers feeling emotional, equipped, curious or validated, they'll want to share it with their own community. But it also has to be suitable for sharing.

Not just logistically (although quick links help), but aesthetically. What people share becomes an extension of their online persona; your content needs to enhance their image. Include tweetable quotes and embellish with aesthetic visuals that look good on an Instagram feed—people do judge a book by its cover.

Case in point: Visualize Value is an educational platform in visual communication. Simple but impactful illustrations of key business philosophies are shared across the brand's Instagram and Twitter. Their sleek, monochromatic design makes them aesthetically appealing enough to warrant a share. The real appeal, however, is that by sharing Visualize Value's content one can communicate their personal investment in the idea with minimal effort and maximum clarity—enhancing an intellectual, polished online persona with a simple re-tweet.

And there you have it, dearest readers, an exclusive insight into how to leave your audience craving more! Perhaps we would be remiss not to mention that an audience does not appear overnight— one must remain steadfast in spirit when building such an audience. As Lady Whistledown once famously penned, "patience, after all, is a virtue."