Unless you know who you are writing for or talking to, your communications will miss the mark. As marketers know well, identifying and defining your audience is key.
In general terms, any publication, programme or campaign will have a core audience and a broad audience. That core audience, as we’ll discuss shortly, may be made up of sub-audiences but the depth of their interest and motivations will unify them.
Core audience, broad audience
Although the core audience will, by default, be smaller than the broader audience, don’t be tempted by numbers alone. Everything you write, say and create should be done so through through the filter of that smaller core audience. In doing so, you’ll pick up the broad audience along the way.
If, however, you start broad and general you will fail to deliver anything sufficiently tailored to that core audience. Remember, the specific should always trump the generic.
So how do you define that core audience? Perhaps the most effective method for doing this is through the development of personas. Working in a group, set about describing the archetypal reader by answering a series of questions, drawing on any qualitative or quantitative research you have to hand. Start with basic questions to establish:
- Family status
Then move on to the professional:
- Job title
- Professional background
Then the general:
- Newspaper of choice
- Website of choice
- Radio station of choice
- Favourite TV show
- Favourite film
- Holiday destination
- Smartphone of choice
Then attempt to define:
- Current information sources
- Information motivations
This is not an exhaustive list. Rather it is indicative of the types of questions worth answering to develop a rounded persona. There will be other questions you will want to ask that are specific to your professional realm.
Make them real
Finally give your persona a name that fits – a Jane or Tom or whatever. Create more than one persona if necessary but no more than three as the impact will be diluted.
Once you have your persona or personas in place, use them to test every editorial decision. Would Jane be interested in reading about subject x? If so what angle should the feature take to best appeal to her? Will Tom watch an online video on his smartphone about subject y? If so, what is the best treatment and length? Once your team starts talking about Jane and Tom as if on personal terms, you’ll know the personas have become ingrained into editorial operation.
The biggest criticism of the persona is that it is reductive – a stereotype or caricature lacking nuance. While this has some merit, it doesn’t devalue approach. A sensible communications team will understand that the persona is useful shorthand for reader/customer needs. There will be times when you’ll want to ignore the persona when making a choice. On most occasions, however, the archetype is all you need.
This is an updated version of a blog by Jon Bernstein for Slack Communications. Jon is one of our strategic partners, offering editorial and digital consultancy services. To find out more about what he can offer you, get in touch or contact Becky at email@example.com