The journalist’s trick to writing quality content

What's a persona?
Personas are a literary device which is used to help writers and marketers effectively plan what to write next, as well as how to create a content/marketing strategy that will have the biggest impact on their intended audience.

The philosophy that underpins ‘personas’ as a tool is straightforward – you can’t expect to write content that’s impactful for an audience if you don’t know who they are.

So a persona is a character profile that represents a slice of your audience. To cover all bases, it makes sense to create somewhere in the region of 3-5 personas to cover your bases.

Header - Who should use a persona?

I touched on it earlier but I’d say using personas makes sense to the following (but not limited to);

Content creators (including bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers):
Trying to figure out what content will land best with your current or future/intended audience? Boom. Personas.

Here’s why: By understanding what motivates your audience, you can create content which caters to that. In doing so you’ll provide value. If you can continually provide value to your audience, then they will reward you with loyalty as they perceive you as a trusted source of knowledge/news/entertainment.

Budding entrepreneurs:
Starting a new business and want to figure out where your new company will sit on the market? Or alternatively, you’re in the process of designing a product and need help designing some USPs? Boom. Personas.

Here’s why: With well-developed personas, you can create products and services that are tailored to what your customers want, which puts you in a better position to cater to their needs. Catering more specifically to your customer’s needs is what will make your customer choose you rather than your competitor.

Want to create a targeted marketing campaign that speaks volumes to your audience? Then get a better idea of who that audience is. How?
Boom. You guessed it. Personas.

Here’s why: As with content creators, knowing who your audience is helps shape the language/style you use to speak to them. With marketing, you can take it a step further. Understanding who your audience is means knowing where they spend their time, how they typically find material they trust and, importantly, the personal circumstances which influence their purchasing decisions as consumers.

Just think, the customers you want to reach are more likely to react with content that interests them if it’s found in the channels they already populate.

What should I include in my persona profile?

In order to be useful, you need your persona to contain enough information to create a believable character. The more real the persona feels, the more you’ll be able to empathise with them and use that empathy to plan out content which will provide the most value/have the most significant impact.

Here’s how not to do it;

Persona #1: Jack Howard
Jack is a lad in his twenties that likes the idea of starting his own business but isn’t sure how.”

Notice how Jack seems as real and relatable as one of those characters written in your school maths book where you end up having to work out how many green, red and blue sweets they can split with their mate.

Sack Jack off – we can do better.

I’ve broken down some areas to include and grouped them together into the below four sections.

Header - Demographic overview

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Nationality
  • Education
  • Family
  • Household income
  • Location? (Urban, rural or suburban)

Career Overview

Job role
Consider their current position and what role that will have on their motivations and aspirations. Here you’ll want to consider things like; what does their day-to-day look like? Do they have much free time? What’s their office environment like? Are they surrounded by people from similar, different or mixed ages/backgrounds? Is the job fulfilling?

Outside of their role, it’s worth considering your persona’s working environment and what impact this might have on their outlook. Consider things like; what sector do they work in? Large employer? Progression opportunities?

Specifically in the context of Inkbike, I know that someone’s salary would play a large role in the way they might approach a new venture or enterprise and so should be factored into the content I write. This might be the same for you too, depending on the type of content you’re putting out.

Obviously if you were using personas as part of market research, understanding someone’s available resources would play a huge role in knowing how to market to them effectively.

In equal balance to what your personas do for a living, equal emphasis can be placed on what they do in their spare time. How they spend their time outside of work can inform the type of content they might enjoy or actively seek out.

Interests and aspirations header

Short term goals
An easier way to frame this question might be, what do they want to achieve by the end of this year?

Long term goals
Like the above, break it down to a more objective question; what do they want to achieve over the course of the next 3, 5 or 10 years?

What challenges do they face for achieving these goals?
This is one of the most important sections, the degree to which you have an understanding of this question will directly determine the amount of value you’ll be able to provide your reader/customer.

How can I help them to achieve these goals/How can I provide a solution for these challenges?
If you’re a content creator, the answer to this question will help shape the things you make. If you’re a business, understanding the answers to these questions will help you define your unique selling points (USPs) that give you a competitive edge in your market.

Header - Approach to reading

How do they find things to read?
Is your target audience more attracted to particular social media platforms than others? Do they typically frequent only particular websites? If so, why?

What type of articles do they look for?
Are they interested in general news? Opinion pieces? Humour? Political or social commentary?

What times of the day do they read?
Are they a lunch-time browser? A commuter looking to pass the time on their morning ride to work? Someone that reads in bed? Do they sit and read in the office while procrastinating?

How much time do they spend reading?
5 minutes a day? 10 minutes? An hour? 3 hours?

What are they looking for in the content they read?
Do they read to stay informed? To relax? To pass the time while commuting? To learn or to participate (through comments etc.)?

Where should I look for information?

How you go about this depends on where you are with your thing. No matter where you’re at however, your research can look like some combination of the following;

Social media stats
If you already have a following then absolutely make use of it. Facebook and Instagram give brilliant demographic breakdowns for people in your audience. These nuggets of information can be a fantastic basis for building a persona.

Interrogate the audiences of your enemie-*cough* competition…I meant competition.
Don’t have a social media audience? Look at the social media pages of others who might be in the same field as you – scroll through the comments for their posts and see what people engage with. It might take more digging but get a feel for who those people are (i.e. click on people leaving comments) and see what you can find out/if you can spot any trends.

I know, it’s no major surprise that the guy from Inkbike is a fan of Interviews. They’re pretty great though! Try and think of who, out of everyone you know, would be most likely to get on board with your content or be potential customers. Sit down with those people and ask them about their habits.

What was the catalyst for you starting your thing? What problem were you looking to solve and who does it affect?
You might be your own best source of insight. What got you motivated enough to start doing your thing? What wasn’t out there in such a way that you felt compelled to put it out there yourself? Figure that out and then think about who else, like you, might benefit from it? This is an opportunity to consider the audience you want to have rather than just the audience you might already/do have.

Putting it all together

Finally, after getting all the information together we can start to build up our profiles.

To finish this bit, I decided to make CVs for each of my personas using Canva since it’s free and awesome (if you want to learn more about creating graphics from Canva and other tools, you should read my earlier article).

Alternatively, if you’d like to download any of the below to use as inspiration, I’ll link them here;

(Also don’t judge me for naming each of the personas after Marvel Avengers characters, Avengers Infinity War did JUST come out after all…)

An image of a persona profile that's formatted to look like a CV

An idea is to add a one-line summary of the persona’s core personality trait under the name; I found it useful to remind me which persona is which at a glance.

Natasha Romanov Persona Profile

idn’t include every single one of the above headers religiously, the point is the capture enough that you can get a sense of the persona and use that to create impactful content.

T'Challa Persona Profile

The idea is to put the emphasis on the goals and how you can help the persona to overcome their challenges. Understanding these two areas is how you’ll be able to provide value and make impactful content.

Sam Wilson Persona Profile

Looking at the goals and challenges, I created a list of themes that would be most valuable and relevant to the Sam persona; my thinking is that this would make it easier to come up with new content ideas later if I ever get stuck.

Putting the personas to good use

You’ve finished the labour intensive bit, great stuff. The next step is to get some use out of your hard work by using your personas to come up with useful content.

Using the characters you’ve created, the idea is to put yourself in their shoes. What are the challenges they’re facing at the moment? What kind of information would they like to know? How could you write headlines that would catch their attention?

Examples of content headlines for Steve Rogers could be:

  • 10 professional skills you can develop for your CV outside your day job.
  • Black box thinking: why trying and failing is the best thing you can do.
  • 3 great entrepreneur communities you can get involved with in Leeds.

Conclusion header

Granted, this is a time-consuming process – especially when factoring in time spent researching. But the benefit of using personas to create content is that your planning becomes informed.

While small details like someone’s income, family, job role and hobbies might seem inconsequential and removed from the work that you do, ultimately it’s factors like these which influence a person’s habits; spending, reading or otherwise.

It’s at this point, you stand to make a meaningful impact with whatever content you’re making.

Besides, even if it doesn’t end up being something that you find as useful, it’s NEVER a bad thing to do your research.

What do you think? Would this be something useful for you? If it is and you end up making a persona template, I’d LOVE to see it, so please send it me on any of the below!

Twitter: @Inkbike
Facebook: @lnkbike
LinkedIn: Inkbike


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