What do you think of when you see the words audience persona? Is it scary? Vague? Not even on your radar? Let’s look at it another way:
What is the single most important element of your brand? Hint: It’s not your budget, though that helps. And it’s not your ability to generate great content. Though that’s important too. It’s your audience. Having a vision for your ideal audience is critical in understanding your target. That’s why you need an audience persona.
Often, brands fall into the trap of targeting far too broadly. We focus on 25-54 year olds or 18-49 year olds. Or if we’re more specific, we target one genre within the demographic.
Really? A focus on 18-49 women? So who specifically?
This 49 year old? She’s a grandmother. Or this 18 year old? She’s still in high school. The 49 year old could have given birth to her at age 31.
That’s your target? What do they have in common?
Okay that’s too broad. Maybe our target should be 18-34 year old women.
Huh? You mean the 18 year old that is about to graduate from high school and lives with her parents or the 34 year old that has three kids under the age of 5 and works a full time job?
Hmmm…Maybe even narrower. How about 20-26 year olds?
Closer, but still: The 20 year old that is off at the University living in a sorority or the 26 year old career girl that’s out of grad school and has just moved to a city halfway across the country?
It’s complicated. And that’s where a persona comes into play.
Starting The Audience Persona
Building a useful audience persona isn’t expensive, but does take some time and investment in a little work. It consists of compiling information in three key areas:
This gives a statistical aspect of your audience in general. These characteristics of a persona are easier to identify than others. Not everyone in your audience will fall into the same category of course, but you will find that a majority will be made up of similar characteristics.
The reason why demographics are the easiest to research is because they are just statistics. A demographic is any value that can describe the tendencies of a group of people. It doesn’t require in-depth analysis. It’s purely quantitative, and you can gather the information fairly quickly from the census, ratings services or in the profiles in your database and social media platforms. That’s a great place to start.
If you have even a modest budget, you can gather more data by asking them through research projects or surveys. This can be highly effective if you already have a large email list. In fact, the research may not cost anything at all.
This gets a little deeper, and will reveal what they’re thinking about and talking about. Here you learn about the values, attitudes, preferences, and thoughts.
Psychographics tap into social and psychological factors, and give you a more qualitative understanding of the audience. It’s more intimate, as you start to gain understanding into why they make their decisions, what motivates them.
As you learn what they’re all about, you start to learn how to appeal to them.
Behavior, of course, is what we’re trying to influence. If we learn their lifestyle, we can affect their actions. To get them to choose what you offer. That behavior is affected by every message you send, which in turn affects attitudes toward your brand, and how they eventually behave.
We want to find out as much as possible about the target audience. If you ask them, they’ll be happy to tell you. You just have to ask them in the right way and the right time.
Using OAR to Build an Audience Persona
To get the information, we use the OAR method. OAR stands for Observe, Ask and Research. This is like going shopping at the grocery to gather ingredients for your favorite meal!
Since you know the demographics, pay attention to those folks. Observe their lives. Find out what they read and talk about. Go where they go. Watch what they watch. Be where they are. Do what they do. Eavesdrop on them. Check what they’re talking about on their social media pages. Listen to them. Pay attention to them.
You can learn a lot just by being alert. Do they have school-age children? What is going on in the schools and on playgrounds that affect their lives? What are their challenges raising those kids?
Be curious. Start conversations on social media. Find a topic and let them talk about themselves and their lives. Start conversations at promotions, appearances and events instead of hiding from them. Find out what they care about.
Some people may not naturally open up to you, but you can get to meaningful information by probing a bit. A key is to dive deeper into questions by asking WHY? Get beyond their superficial answers to find out what is really motivating them.
Focus groups are great for this, if you can afford it. Gather 8-14 in an informal setting and buy them pizza and soft drinks if they’ll share about their lives. You’re not just asking about their habits and views of your brand, but about them personally. Because if you know everything about them, you can create a product to appeal to them.
That’s why Proctor & Gamble spends more money on finding out how consumers live in their homes – like where they do their laundry, and what day of the week they shop-than they do on their actual products like Tide.
This can be particularly revealing, especially when you lay your topics on top of their interests. And what challenges them in their day-to-day lives.
Or, conduct short polls and surveys online with multiple choice and open-ended questions. Our friends at WP Hatch can put this together for you quickly and inexpensively for around $1,000.
Building The Audience Persona
By now, you’ll be swimming in data. There may be too much information. You have to get it into context with your brand and personality. What are the most important aspects that you can focus on regularly?
In other words, where does the audience interest and your expertise intersect?
Look for things to take advantage of, and eliminate or adjust aspects of the show to better appeal to the persona. In other words, what are you for in her life?
Just because you have the information doesn’t mean you have to represent all of it in your persona. If we can narrow the information into 3 or 4 main categories, it helps in execution.
Of course, your audience persona isn’t an actual person, but it must be built as if it could be. Your persona must be real. That means it needs:
A Backstory: You need to know their past, as well as their present. Their life experiences dictates who they are now, and holds the key to how to reach them effectively.
An Identity: She needs a name with real-life interests and goals and a worldview of values that she holds dear.
Potential: You must know how they use your brand and your industry? Is she active or passive? How much does she engage? When? How does she use your website and social media?
How You Fit: And, you must know how your offerings intersect with her interests. Once you know this, putting together your product or service is pretty easy.
All of this (and more) is added to the template you’re creating.
The Audience Persona Summary
Then, narrow the focus even more with a simple summary. Here’s an example:
Do you see how that story brings all the data we’ve collected together?
Paragraph 1 is all about demographics. Paragraphs 2 and 3 both contain psychographic information. Finally, paragraph 4 addresses what you are for….and how to tap into her behavior.
And there are 3 things that stand out: pop culture, relationships, and being put in a good mood. You can build an entire image around those three qualities.
This makes a great poster, by the way.
Using the Audience Persona
Now that you understand your persona almost as well as you understand yourself, keep asking what she woiuld respond to? You’ll be able to create content that resonates with a large part of your audience.
Every topic, every message, every communication should be created with this persona in mind. The persona doesn’t tell you what your content should be about. It actually expands the possibilities because you now know how to talk about it.
You also need to introduce the persona to the entire organization so that department understands the needs and challenges your customers face in order to serve them better. Print copies, and set up a meeting to explain what it represents.
One final note: a persona can, and should, evolve over time, as your brand evolves, as society changes, as new people come into your target audience and as their lifestyle changes Revisit the profile at least once a year and make sure it’s up to date.
Audience Persona Resources
To learn more about how to develop your persona, watch our webinar on demand: Be An Audience Magnet. Then, download the notes and outline, along with the audience persona template.
If you’d like help putting it all together for your station, we’re here for you. Contact us and we’ll get to work on it right away.
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