Building better campaigns with personas

The platforms and channels we consume media from are changing every day.

Digital, analog, TV, and web: The platforms and channels we consume media from are changing every day. We are awash in information and messaging from a variety of sources and equally as many intentions.

The business of communication is changing equally as fast. PR professionals and communicators need to succeed in targeting their audience and providing value. The challenge is in how to identify the path to relevance and engagement.

A key method to achieving success in a communication plan is researching and developing a user persona. A persona is a tool borrowed from the practice of user-centered design. The concept is to develop a specific profile for your audience(s) based on proprietary data and demographic information.

The persona can support every team member, from planner to writer to designer - synchronizing their efforts on the specific needs of the user.

The persona should be based on what is known about your audience. It is specific and identifies a profile including information such as age, location, family background, financial information. It also includes the kinds of media they would prefer and purchase, the amount of time they would spend consuming media, social networks they may belong to, barriers to receiving your message, and what value they would receive from being exposed to your brand or message.

The resulting persona, or multiple personas, are a test to prove out all of the content that you develop for your campaign. Building the persona is a foundational step in building any sizable communication. It will keep a team focused on using the most effective voice and be sure that the chosen channels are optimal for reaching your target audience.

Personas are not a new tool or unique to multichannel strategies. Good PR people internalize the process to channel appropriate tone and intuitively know which medium is best to reach their reader. The benefit of a formalized persona is to document research and remove the habit of default channels in communication plans. There is an added benefit in aligning clients and even the smallest teams with a very personalized target to create materials.

Communication strategists continue to rely on personas and other audience tools well after launch as a document to understand message and channel changes as audiences react and internalize messages. Digital media is quickly changing how we interact with one another everyday. Seeing the shifts in adoption can help brands maintain ties and recognize new opportunity. Verifying research and testing your campaigns is critical to success and keeping your edge as a content creator.

Chris Cullmann is director of digital strategy at Coyne PR.

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