By now we all know content is not king unless there’s a killer strategy behind it. In last week’s content strategy guide, you learned how to outline your content objectives to make sure you’re not just creating content for content’s sake. This week we’re delving into the second – but arguably most important – step of the process: developing your content persona.
All the content in the world is never going to help you if nobody is reading, watching, sharing or otherwise engaging with it. Rachel Davis Mersey, associate professor of journalism at Northwestern University, specialises in audience understanding. In her lectures, she talks about the importance of delivering the right content to the right person at the right time. “It’s really important that we stop looking at media as old and new media and start looking at media that meets people where they are,” she says. You need to have such a thorough understanding of your audience that you know what they need before they’re even aware themselves.
But how do you know what to deliver to whom and when? The key is audience personas.
What is an audience persona?
An audience persona is a representation of an individual at the centre of your target market. More specific than audience segments and professional roles, audience personas are detailed, semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer or customers.
It’s important to remember that profiling one single person in your target market will not get to the heart of the matter, nor will relying on instinct or hunches. Personas are an amalgamation of quantitative data gleaned from surveys and reports, as well as qualitative insights from one-on-one interviews with actual customers and potential customers.
How do you create an audience persona?
The easy part of creating your audience personas is to look into market research. For most segments, this information will be out there already in the form of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, as well as surveys and polls whose results will likely be available online after a quick Google search. There’s no need to rehash those methods to get the information you want – just pick and choose the data sets from those sources.
The bad news is that the easy part of persona work is the less valuable part. “The harder it is to measure something, the better it is in understanding an audience,” Professor Davis Mersey says. The true value of audience persona comes from understanding actual people you are trying to target. Talk to them, follow them around, find out how they spend their days and uncover their pain points.
Several organisations offer downloadable persona development worksheets, including HubSpot, Marketing Before Funding and Left Brain DGA. We’ve pieced together the most helpful elements of each for this checklist.
In short, audience personas require work. Lots of work. In order to get the level of detail you need from your audience personas, you need to be willing to put in the effort up front, gathering all data and putting it together in a smart, helpful way.
The good news is that once you’ve put in the work, your personas will be valid for many years because they’re based on real people, and people don’t change that much throughout the years. The tools they use to consume information may change, but at their core they will always be trying to solve the same problems to make their lives easier.
And that’s where your content marketing strategy comes in.
Lucy Sutton – Content Strategist