Personas have spread throughout the business world. Starting in the information technology space for tailoring application development to intended users, the idea of using fictional characters to characterize a particular audience in fine detail has been taken up by many organizational functions. And for good reason.
Creating a persona to represent a particular segment of a target audience helps to better understand that segment’s experiences, needs, and goals. The purpose of the exercise is to improve the outcome of an initiative or campaign. When we speak or write to a particular person—even a fictional one—it can better focus the message or communication which in turn can create better results.
When created based on well-executed primary and secondary research, a persona avoids using assumptions, opinions, or anecdotal information as the foundation of an initiative. As personas are created for additional audience segments, the process clarifies differences in the group and prevents addressing the audience as if it were homogeneous.
We’ve been using a persona-like approach in PR since before this idea became so popular. Part of any strategy, after all, is understanding who we are talking to, and we need to have some insight into how Tom, Dick, or Harriet might engage with and react to our communications. Creating personas, therefore, might seem like a “been there, done that” exercise.
But maybe not.
Thinking in terms of personas can increase the effectiveness of PR campaigns and communications. Check out this template, for example. It goes into fine detail about a target audience member—probably finer detail than most of us have considered. While you may not want or need to fill out every single item, there might be some information that would produce a good result for the time you invest in researching it. Also, the information that is relevant for one client’s need may be different for another client, so the template could serve as a sort of checklist for you when you launch a project or write a proposal. This template could even prompt you to add other pertinent questions to help hone the persona.
There is one more benefit of buyer personas: You might be able to make persona-building a revenue generator for you. The skills it takes to build personas are right in line with PR skills. Interviewing, assessing, identifying key points—these are a few of the steps in creating personas that are common to many PR activities. This post is about how a business owner could create their own buyer personas, but really, how many have the bandwidth or abilities to do that? You may be in just the right place and just the right time to pitch the project yourself.
So, we’d like to know. Have you used personas in your PR practice? If so, how well have they worked? Are you building personas for your clients? Any tips you can pass on? Share in the comments below or on social media using #solopr.
This post was written by Trish Lambert, writer, podcaster, and communications pro. You can find Trish writing sparkling copy and dispensing strategic advice to clients at trishlambert.com