Using personas for more effective messaging

The most powerful and effective communications reflect an in-depth understanding of what your target needs. But how do you develop that understanding?

Illustration of hand holding a tablet with profile surrounded by communication and analytics symbols

Simply put, start with personas – research-based characters you create to represent your target audience, including their needs, experiences, behaviors, and goals. When personas are created and used well, they help you connect with your target audience in new and more meaningful ways, guiding ideation and messaging creation. When personas are communicated effectively to your team, they’re a tool everyone can understand and use to drive better results, whether it’s for a recruiting campaign, a fundraising drive, or an engagement initiative.

Here are a few ways using personas will help you get better results:

Benefit 1: Better experience = Better results

When personas guide you, your decisions are based on what helps your target meet their goals. Personas help uncover and set aside any biases you may not even be aware of and guide better decisions from the beginning. That leads to messaging that resonates with your target and drives a better return on your investment, faster.

Benefit 2: Attract talent that fits your culture

Say you’re a talent acquisition leader with hard-to-hire positions, or a college marketing director trying to drive enrollment with a specific demographic. Developing personas that reflect common characteristics of those who thrive in your culture will help you better understand things like who they are, what drives them, what makes them successful, and why they have stayed.

To be clear, personas are NOT candidate profiles or recruiting guides. Instead, they’ll help you focus your messaging, frame interview questions, and ultimately attract candidates who will thrive in your environment – and create better business results.

Benefit 3: Get better buy-in

When you use personas, your decisions are no longer based on opinions; your decisions are based on your actual targets and what they need. When your approach is data-driven, you’re not defending opinions and you’ll meet less resistance.

Great! How do I get started on creating personas?

The creation process is vital. Personas cannot be “made up,” and if they are, they’ll never work to your advantage. Personas must be crafted from actual research – interviews, focus groups, surveys – with relevant people from your target audience. In the corporate arena, this could be leadership as well as mid- and entry-level team members from a range of departments and locations; in the education arena, this could be your current students, influencers and alumni as well as your faculty and staff.

Once you conduct the research, analyze it. Identify trends and patterns – personas are created from an aggregate of actual characteristics and goals. Personas should include relevant information about your target such as goals, behaviors, skills, attitudes, background information, environments, pain points and frustrations.

But one size does not fit all. The use and purpose for your personas will impact the inclusion of any context-specific details. Be careful not to go overboard with personal details, but do add a few – it makes your persona more relatable. For example, if you’re using personas to craft recruitment marketing messaging, you wouldn’t need to include their financial status and major expenses like you would if you were creating, say, a banking app.

Create enough personas to cover your main target segments, but don’t go overboard and create so many that you lose the focus. Three to six is a good general guideline, but you may need more or fewer depending on how many target audience segments you have.

An outside perspective can be invaluable in identifying and creating personas that fit your needs and drive great communications and lead to better business results. We can help you get started.