If you’ve spent any time in the advertising industry, you are familiar with the use of personas. Personas have not been as popular in communications work but they should be. If we believe Gartner Group that by the year 2020 75% of the customer experience will occur before a direct brand interaction occurs, then we all should get serious about personas.
What is a persona, in the first place? A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. Personas are typically based on real data about customer demographics and behavior, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns, and values. The information used to build personas comes from surveys, online and social media analytics, past customers and plain observation.
Before we get too far into how to create a persona, it’s important to understand why we use them. Personas create reference. They create a target audience representation that helps us brainstorm and vet new ideas, test messaging for alignment and predict behavior. In some cases, they can also provide the foundation for eventual advertising but this is not their primary use. Perhaps the most famous persona of all? Betty Crocker. In fact, surveys still show that about 50% of people in America think that Betty Crocker was a real person.
There’s a bigger reason why personas are becoming more important and that goes back to the Gartner statistic. Traditionally communicators have been involved at the problem identification and information research steps of the buying cycle. As more and more of the buying cycle becomes self-directed, the ability to influence, rather than directly market to our audience becomes critical in all phases of the cycle. Communicators are influencing every step along the way, including the evaluation between products and the actual purchase.
Finally, as messaging becomes much simpler and more visual, communications professionals need to understand this “voice of the customer” much more intimately. In the studies regarding behavioral communications, when personas are used for public relations they can have an incredible impact on a campaign.
Personas help public relations and content marketers write to a specific person, which helps streamline and focus the voice used. Also, personas really help identify behavior, which is more important than demographics. This is vital if you’re attempting to increase the amount of integration you have.
With personas, you’re still talking about demographics and psychographics, mainly because you really want to get to know this “person.” Have a name, a photo, some description of this person’s background is helpful. Remember, you are trying to get them to move to the next step in the buying cycle. Staying focused on information that helps with that.
Stay tuned for the next blog post with ways to build personas for product, service or brand.