Creating personas for audience-centric story design

“In this age of the customer, the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge of and engagement with customers.” – David M. Cooperstein, Forrester Research

Not so long ago, I participated to an ideation session in which we used personas to represent different user types of a new application. In user-centered design and marketing, personas are fictional characters, created to represent classes of users that might use (or appreciate) a site, brand, product, or service in a similar way. Sketching imaginary characters with a name, a face, and a story makes it easier for people to generate and evaluate ideas. Musing about a day in the life of Fiona Wright, “a middle-aged female manager with two digital native children, who’s interested in technology and gastronomy” could e.g. facilitate brainstorming about the functionality and the GUI of a new restaurant finder app. Defining and fleshing-out personas may also help you with personalizing your presentation for a specific audience, and building a narrative that resonates with a number of (possible) archetype customers in the room.

lego_persona

Starting from a sheet with made-up demographic information, such as their name (or nickname), age, gender and family situation (some marketers even search the web for a picture of a look-alike), these are a few other questions to ask and – consequently – assumptions to make about your targets:

  • What is their job, level of seniority and role in their company or organization?
  • What do they do in their free time? What are their personal interests?
  • What does an average day in their life look like?
  • What do they value most? What are their goals? How do they get motivated?
  • What are their main challenges and pain points in their job? In their daily lives?
  • What could be their most common objections to your product or service?

The answers to the above questions will empower you to tell a better story, by putting yourself into the shoes of (some in) your audience and establishing an emotional connection with them – as they’ll help you better understand what they think, believe, do, feel and need. In older posts I have described a few tools for characterizing, predicting and influencing the reactions of people in the room. Drawing a power quadrant, an influencer quadrant, and a personality quadrant for each of the personas you create will enable you to adapt your content and presentation style to their anticipated behavior. More reading:

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