How and why personas lead to superior content
Where do the people from your target group live? What are their ambitions? What do they like? What is their opinion on certain issues? This is all interesting input that may help you better gear your content to your audience. One concrete technique to use this information to best advantage involves the creation of personas.
Personas are fictitious characters that stand for a specific part of your target audience. They are a concrete and lively representation of your customers or staff, so that you’re making content for doctor John or Susan instead of ‘the GP’, or for lorry driver Mark or Jonas instead of just ‘the lorry driver’. Personas reveal the ambitions of your target audience, they tell you what challenges they take up, the things they buy, what they expect from your organisation, how they network, what drives them and what sources of information they use. They help you consider things from a customer’s or employee’s point of view instead of from your own needs, products or organisation. An additional advantage of personas is the fact that everyone in your organisation immediately understands who they are working for: doctor John or Mark the lorry driver, for instance.
How do you establish personas?
The best way to set up personas is going into the field. Poll and observe a section of your audience. Collect information on the people you’d like to address:
- What job do they have?
- Which sector do they work in?
- Who do they work for?
- How old are they?
- What is their family composition?
- What kind of education did they enjoy?
- What does their network look like?
- What is their financial situation?
- What does a typical day look like for them?
- Which competencies do they use in their job?
- What are their goals and responsibilities at work?
- What are their greatest challenges? How do they tackle them?
- Which media do they follow?
- Are they active on social media? If so, how?
- What do they buy?
Of course, some things are more relevant than others. Determine which criteria are both typical of your audience and relevant to your activities. If you’re selling wine it’s useful to know whether your customers frequently travel to France and bring wine home; if you’re selling toasters this information is useless. In that case you’ll be more interested in the breakfast habits of your target audience.
Why are they called Steve and Cathy?
Personas need to be tangible and this means you have to give them a name and a face. When fleshing out the persona try to avoid stereotypical descriptions and turn it into a unique flesh-and-blood character. So Steve is not just ‘the father of two children’. He is the ‘proud father of Paul (3) and Lisa (5)’. And there’s a sticker on his Citroën Berlingo that reads ‘Paul and Lisa are on board’. All of this brings Steve to life and letting Steve make an actual statement will have an even bigger impact in this regard. The statement can establish a link with your organisation that forms the central thread throughout all of your communications. Base the statement on what your customers are saying about you in their testimonials.