Step 2: Define Personas

It is great to have enthusiasm before you start an exciting project.  But before you jump in, it is critical that you pause and take a moment to consider (1) the goals you are trying to achieve, (2) the people you are trying to serve – by defining personas and (3) defining what success looks like – by creating a scene.

What is a persona?


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This blog is dedicated to personas.  For those not familiar with the term, personas first came to be discussed relative to writing software in 1999 when Alan Cooper released his book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum.  A persona is a fictitious character that represents an end user that product managers and scrum teams can use to inform their decisions about a product or feature and how it will work.

When you get that great idea, it is important to stop and think about who you are targeting.  What matters to them?  What will mean value to that persona – specific features, a low price point, ease of use?  Using a persona to guide what you will build is very important.  But what about using a persona to decide how you will market?  This can be equally useful.

We recently applied personas in a unique way.  We were volunteering for a community project.  Lots of people approach volunteer activities with great excitement but sometimes the planning and thought gets pushed aside in an effort to just get started.  It usually doesn’t deliver the expected results.  Thought and planning pay off.

In our instance, we wanted to offer services to our community.  What does that mean?  Who are we truly trying to reach?  We created a list of four different characters and their specific situations.

Example Personas

Persona 1 = Allison.  Single mother of two young kids looking for a support group to help raise her children and restore her sense of community following her divorce.  She is looking for a non-judgmental place that will embrace her and where she will be more than just a number.

Persona 2 = Max.  Max is 16 years old and attends high school.  He is troubled by what he sees in high school with the kids making poor decisions.  He feels like there is more to life and that he can do more and be more than is currently being asked of him.
Persona Family 3 = Todd and Susan. This couple has been married for 12 years and has two children, 10 and 8.  They are completely overwhelmed with their schedule and trying to be the perfect family.  Between soccer and dance and two full-time jobs, they are barely keeping their head above water.  They want to engage in the community but they honestly can’t fathom adding one more thing to their schedule.
Persona Family 4 = Sam and Joann.  They are empty nesters.  Their children are all out of the house and they now find they have more time and energy to apply towards finding and contributing to the community.

Impact to Marketing Plans

Which personas we choose to address will impact our marketing plan.  We certainly cannot reach Max through the same channels that we would use to reach Todd and Susan.  And the services that would attract Allison will be very different from the services that will appeal to Sam and Joann.  By defining the possible personas and then choosing who your target audience is, you can make the most of your marketing dollars or your volunteer efforts.  In our instance, we decide to focus on Todd and Susan.  Therefore, we are going to start by printing information about our community support group on reusable grocery bags and we are going to give them away for free at the local grocery store.  Our first community outreach is going to be a kid friendly, free event on a Saturday morning, when people like Todd and Susan are looking for something to do with their children.  Had we chosen to target a different persona, we would take a different approach to our marketing and outreach efforts.
Enthusiasm is great and when you have a great idea – you might want to dive right in.  First, try to take a deep breath and think for a moment – about your goals, your target audience (personas) and your definition of success (screenplay).  Just a bit of thoughtful consideration can be the difference between failure and success.



One Response to Step 2: Define Personas

  1. […] new project or idea that you are so excited about.  Those were: Step 1 – Set your Goals and Step 2 – Define your target audience, or personas.  Now it is time for the final step – decide what success looks like and the best way to do […]

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