180407746Reactive content creation is creating content for creation’s sake, feeding off whatever is trending at any given moment.

Through newsjacking and trend manipulation, reactive content creation displaces the need for quality—generating a torrent of information about everything, in the hope that something will stand out among the noise.

This content deluge has increased the stakes for marketers looking to reach—and serve—their readers through content. As a result, the needs of the reader are diminished.

But in reclaiming the content process, the marketer must be proactive, finding the “why” from the reader and using that information to solve their problem. While there are many classic marketing tactics that will help accomplish proactive content creation, three stand out as some of the most helpful.  

1) Laddering

In marketing, laddering is defined as the process by which you match the desires of your potential customers to the attributes of your brand. Performed correctly, the brand will embody the specific attribute you are pursuing. By continuing to ask questions centered on the theme of “Why is that important to you,” you can distill the responses into a single, abstract emotional need that your brand is trying to satisfy.

The key difference in this process can be characterized by the table below. It shows the contrast between the classic demographic data usually used to construct target personas and the laddering data that taps into the actual need. 

Demographic Data
Laddering Data

A married woman between the age of 30 to 45 with a college degree, a $50,000 yearly income, 2.6 kids, living in the Midwest or Southeast and who is a heavier user of your product.

A mother of two, who is nervous about turning 40 soon, spends 50+ hours a week at the office, is a neat freak who considers cleaning a hobby and spends much of her discretionary income on items for her home.

Between these two, there is a distinct contrast in depth of finding the “why” of the buyer and matching that “why” to specific brand attributes. In her article “Climbing the Ladder to Your Ideal Audience,” Danielle Look breaks down the process into two questions that the process of laddering can answer:

  • Why they do not buy your product
  • Why they really do buy your product

The result of asking “Why” repeatedly is finding the real motivation that dictates need. For marketers, this is invaluable.


For content, the process of laddering can reveal the baseline wants and needs of the reader and offer insight into the content that he or she will consume. Compile test subjects to interview and break down their reasons for reading into those baseline emotional attributes. Match those attributes to your content marketing message and use the content you create to serve the reader by giving the solutions that they seek. This process appeals to the personal side of your reader and allows for direct engagement and recall at the deepest level.

2) Personas

Persona creation is a marketing staple because it takes a buyer snapshot a result of interviews, demographic data, and survey groups. Like laddering, personas give a picture of a consumer who is looking to fill a need. Historically, personas relied heavily on demographic data in constructing a personal picture of the consumer. Such dependencies exclude the personal depth found by the aforementioned laddering process.

With social media acting as a constantly open sharing channel, it would be irresponsible to limit the scope of persona construction to simple abstractions promulgated by search engines and demographic data. When including all available resources, creating the persona—and then using it—can give the marketer a real picture of who they are pursuing.


When applying this marketing tactic to content, you must match the attributes of the content to the need of the reader. When you write for everyone within your field, you write for no one. This insight can be gained using the same techniques as in marketing, with interviews, surveys and social trend analyses.

If consumer interviews are out of the question, front load social tracking and find the conversations happening about the particular topic (social tracking tools like Buzzsumo and Topsy were designed for such tasks). Creating a reader persona will enable you to proactively cater to specific needs within the content itself. Planned correctly, you will be able to predict and schedule content based on the needs of the reader as they relate to trending topics.

3) Promotion

Digital PR and proper promotion are very important in both delivering the right content to the right audience and for tapping into the social influencers who affect conversion. Historically, promotion of the marketing message has been through traditional means such as radio, TV, and print. Obviously, this has changed.  In a recent Nielsen study, it was shown that:

  • 85 percent of consumers regularly or occasionally seek out trusted expert content – credible, third-party articles and reviews – when considering a purchase
  • 69 percent of consumers like to read product reviews written by trusted experts before making a purchase
  • 67 percent of consumers agree that an endorsement from an unbiased expert makes them more likely to consider purchasing

The amount of content that’s digitally consumed speaks to the idea that specific, tailored content needs to be promoted to the right people in the right way and should be an important consideration in any campaign.


Using the results from the laddering process and persona creation, you should have a clear picture of your reader and their needs. The next step is find out where they are online and put the content in front of them, whether that be pitching and then writing externally for influential sites or sharing the content on your company blog on the right platform at the right time of day.

Proactive content creation is a responsible, targeted way to cater to the needs of the reader. By using classic processes such as laddering, persona creation and use, and promotion the marketer will be less inclined to fall back on the writing reactively. Target your content. Make it serve the reader. Brands were designed to solve problems, so find the people with the problem and serve them with content that provides a solution.


Originally published Mar 27, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated January 18 2023


Content Marketing Buyer Personas