In the course Audience Engagement through Persona Development, we take a look more carefully at how to understand your audience. Our goal is audience profiling that allows us to identify and understand the audience to be able to create satisfying and engaging user messages, services, and products. It is equally important in order to develop strategies that use resources wisely.

Every individual has a story. It is how we make sense of the world and how we decide what products to use, what organization to join and what ideas to embrace. We use the persona development process to identify the consumer’s story.  Your will learn to apply psychological theory to really ‘hear’ and empathize with the customer rather than relying on traditional psychographics and statistics. Using a narrative framework, we begin by looking at some theories central to human behavior, such as identity, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, social influences, mental models and schema, and framing and cognitive biases. These become the building blocks that allow us to dissect evaluate research and construct an accurate and useful persona.

Creating a persona

The first step in Audience Engagement is to think about who you audience is. We all have an image or idea (call it a ‘Ad Hoc’ or your hypothesis) of who our target customer really is. A persona forces us to articulate those assumptions in a descriptive and specific way. Personas aren’t 18 to 23. They are either 18 or 23. Laying out your assumptions does some very important things: 1) it exposes any gaps in your assumptions, 2) it lets people compare assumptions so they can better align efforts and 3) it gives you something to test to see if your assumptions about who you think you’re talking to are correct. Some of our students have been surprised to find out that they need to add a persona at a completely different age or change their persona altogether.

Isolating their goals, needs and motivations

One we have created an Ad Hoc persona, you can think about the goals, need and motvations from the perspective of the theories we cover. These questions add depth to your assumptions and will give you baseline behaviors to test.

Hide and seek, bend and stretch

In describing the persona with specifics, it is much easier to anticipate communication patterns and where you might intersect with your primary audience. The research process allows you to test your initial assumptions about where people hang out. At the same time, you start to listen to their thoughts and concerns about the things related to your product or cause.  The influence on the audience comes from multiple sources–internal needs and goals interact with external forces, such as peers, family, social trends and global events.  For example, directly after 9/11, the sale of wedding rings skyrocketed.  That makes perfect sense through the lens of psychology.  After 9/11, people were more fearful as the world seemed chaotic in the face of senseless violence.  Therefore, many were motivated to find and strengthen bonds of affection and social connection to restore comfort, security and a sense of order.

Researching the persona provides rich qualitative data that gives you more insight about the things that matter to your audience.  The analysis of the data allows us to adjust personas as necessary and then craft a story and strategy to cross their paths and fit their needs.

See Brand Psychology or Psychology of Story for more discussion of certificate topics.