How to Create Compelling Personas to Improve Your Communications
Communications can’t be everything to everyone; you’ve got to find a way to communicate with and connect to a diverse employee workforce. Brilliant Ink’s Ann Melinger and Jackie Berg explain why personas are the missing ingredient in your EC plan and outline the steps to build a persona in their Poppulo webinar.
Many organizations today are more diverse than ever. Workforces often comprise employees from different backgrounds and generations, fulfilling different roles in different locations. Although your employee communications (EC) team is tasked with communicating effectively with all employees, your messaging simply can’t be everything to everyone.
In their Poppulo webinar, Ann and Jackie detail why and how EC professionals can use people data to create “personas” that will help refine their communications. This technique can help you create messages that feel engaging, motivating, and memorable because they’re aimed at a specific “somebody” rather than a generic “everybody.”
How to Create and Deploy a Persona
Ann and Jackie outline a four-step process for creating and using personas: gather and map out people data, break the data down into audience segments, build personas that represent those audience segments, and apply those personas to past and current messaging.
Step 1: Gather and map out people data
First, you need to gather, understand, and map out all of the available data about your company and its employees. Gather data from various sources, including the company’s IT and HR teams, an analytics platform such as Poppulo, annual reports, and fact sheets, websites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor, engagement data, and focus groups and surveys. You’ll want to gain insights into the employees’ demographics, tenure, geographical location, job function, engagement level, preferred communications channel, attendance data, and more.
Step 2: Break the data down into audience segments
Once you’ve mapped out the data and gained insight into your audience, you can start thinking about how to break that audience into more manageable groups. Think about how you would describe your company’s workforce—are you mostly engineers? mainly customer support? a mix of sales and factory employees?
Working from that description, determine which attribute groups are the largest or most relevant for your communication goals. You may want to start with a broad audience segment and a narrow one, or you might simply focus on higher-reach attributes. If your company is doing a specific initiative—say, a wellness campaign—you might want to make an audience segment of employees who previously participated in a similar initiative. The audience segments you develop will be specific to your company. But don’t feel like you need to cover every employee; three to five personas should be sufficient, especially if this is a new endeavor for your EC team.
Step 3: Build a persona that represents a major audience segment
Next, building from all your data and attributes, design a persona for each audience segment. You can use a persona worksheet that includes information about the employee as a person—going beyond workplace attributes like communications usage and preferences—to ensure that you’re creating a robust profile. Or, for a more minimalist approach, create a “day in the life” of your persona. Use whatever makes sense for you, but be sure to base the personas on your data, not assumptions.
Make these personas as real as possible. Give them names, and use a stock photo as the persona’s face. Introduce the personas to senior leaders and other key communicators and put photos or cardboard cut-outs of your personas in the workplace to keep them top of mind.
Step 4: Apply the persona to past and current messaging
Finally, use the persona to create more effective communications. Imagine you have your personas in a room as a focus group, and you’re going to show them your new communications campaign. You’d want to know how the personas would respond. What do they like about the messaging? What would prompt them to take action? What’s falling flat for them? Where are you appealing to their unique attributes—say, their creativity or competitive nature? Use this exercise to refine your communications before they launch.
You can do a similar exercise with your most recent communications—say, town hall presentations, newsletters, and email campaigns. Look at these through the eyes of your personas. Is there something in each piece that appeals to or engages each persona? This exercise can reveal where you’re connecting with certain audience segments and where there’s an opportunity for improvement.
As you develop communications based on personas, you’ll likely notice something interesting—although such messaging is created with a specific person in mind, it often feels more relevant and compelling to a wide range of employees, including those outside the targeted audience segment. This is because such messaging is more focused, engaging, and memorable than a generic message.
For practical examples of using people data to create personas, see Ann and Jackie’s webinar, where they demonstrate how they built personas for a business-to-business nanotech company, a music streaming service, and a global payments company.