When developing a content strategy there is no way around your target audience. The nicest looking content strategy is worth nothing if you don’t address your target group’s questions and pain points. If you don’t provide a suitable solution, they will simply look elsewhere. Personas will help you get to know your users and customers.
What are personas?
Personas are fictional representatives of your target group. Their goal is to align your organization with your target group’s needs. Personas help you put yourself in your customers’ shoes, make decisions on a strategic level, design tailored offers for them and guarantee consistency when addressing them across different touchpoints.
To create content that matters and offers that are relevant to your audience, buyer personas are the first step. Only when you understand what’s important to your target group, your communication and marketing strategies can be effective.
How does a persona look like?
There is no universal persona. How your personas look like, strongly depends on your target group. A nicely prepared presentation of demographic data is not enough, though. To gain valuable insights and prepare your persona, you will have to listen to your target group. Explore their history and find out when, how and why they make the decision to buy a product or service. Use your findings to show your (potential) customers the aspects of your product or service that are relevant to them.
What I personally like to include when creating a persona, are the target group’s goals, their background, expectations, motivations and frustrations. Those aspects are most important to me to understand the audience. Depending on the context, I will add their skills, social media channels and devices they use. A quote adds a nice touch, as well. I do include demographics, because it makes it easier to add a face to your persona. But in my eyes, all the other things I mentioned before are more valuable.
If you combine all those insights, your persona profile can look like the example below. In that specific case I was working on a persona of potential apprentices for a company:
Creating personas is primarily about listening to and understanding a target group. Buying decisions are complex, which is exactly why you should invest some resources to speak to your target audience and gain deep insights.
Adele Revella wrote one of the go-to books about buyer personas which I want to recommend to you. It contains hands-on instructions and even if your project is not about buyers per se because e.g. you want to create personas for potential employees or you want to gain members for your NGO, you can still take away a lot of information on how to tackle the process. For my German speaking colleagues, I can also recommend Martin Bredl’s article and instructions based on Revella’s book.
When creating personas you should go through the following steps:
- Define your persona: who should be addressed by your communication measures?
- Conduct interviews: You won’t need as many interviews as you might expect – eight is a number you can orient yourself toward. You will have enough interviews when the answers keep repeating. Try to find out about your target group’s experiences, expectations, pain points and motivations. When it comes to the interviews, I personally like to mix and match methods. In my last projects I took some of Revella’s suggestions but combined them with elements of qualitative research by Uwe Flick to standardize the process a little more. If you are interested in the more scientific way to lead interviews, make sure to read my colleague Pamela’s article.
- Analyze interviews: To get the most out of the interviews, you should record and transcribe them. When it comes to coding them, I tend towards the more scientific approach as well. You can get an insight about systematic coding and how the tool MAXQDA can be used for it in another of Pamela’s articles. Since systematic coding can be time consuming, you can of course stick to Revella’s recommendations.
- Develop a persona profile: After conducting and analyzing the interviews you can develop persona profiles with your findings. Note that it is best to develop as few personas as possible. That will make communication more effective. To put your findings into place, I highly recommend using UXPressia. We used this tool in one of our lectures with Noz Urbina to create personas as well as user journeys. It is a very user friendly tool which will make your life easier. To validate the personas, I usually hold a workshop with the target group, which I combine with creating a user journey. That gives me a chance to discuss with the target group if the persona profile I built is suitable.
Use your personas
Once you’re finished, make sure to use the personas and not let only them sit in a drawer. They can add so much value to your communication. That being said, not only your marketing or communications department should use them. Make sure that everybody in your organization knows your target audiences to create a common understanding. One last thing: personas are not a rigid tool. They should be questioned and developed further regularly.
Bredl, M. (2022). Buyer Personas erstellen: Anleitung mit Vorlage. Take Off PR Blog.
Flick, U. (2021). Qualitative Sozialforschung. Eine Einführung (10.). Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag.
Häusel, H.-G., & Henzler, H. (2018). Buyer Personas: Wie man seine Zielgruppen erkennt und begeistert (1. Aufl.). Haufe Gruppe.