By Jem Bauermeister
Writing a brief always starts with an audience. Whether you write it Steve Harrison style or follow Olly’s template, audience rightly comes first. But how do you know who to target? And how do you get to know them if you don’t have time / money / social skills to do real quantitative research? If you get this bit wrong, your work will be completely irrelevant. I wrote this to help me. Maybe it’ll help other people.
- Do you want to sell more of the same stuff to the same people? If the answer is yes, skip to stage three.
- If you want to find a new audience, think about a brand or product or interest this new audience might have. For example you might think about expanding the audience of Headspace. If their current audience average the age of 25, pick someone who’s a bit older. A 45 year old. What do they use? What do they buy? Etc. Find a brand they connect to. Maybe they religiously buy Dove body wash.
- Find this brand’s audience. There’s a number of ways you can do this.
- https://yougov.co.uk/profileslite (not every brand is on there and some of them are based on averages of quite small samples so can be quite inaccurate but gives a good rough idea or a starting place)
- Go on to Amazon, find the product, look at the 5* reviews. People who leave 5* reviews are definitely feeling connected to the brand.
- If it’s not on Amazon, search “Dove body wash review” into Google. Everything has been reviewed by someone. Find that person who likes it enough to write about it online.
- Find this person’s social media profile. It’s normally quite easy. If you’ve used YouGov you won’t have a name but there’s a “professions” category so search a job title from this into LinkedIn.
This sounds kind of creepy but everyone puts so much about themselves online and a lot of it is public. It’s really easy to build a persona from Facebook and Twitter. You can go in to as much detail as you want, or make up a fictional character based on a group of people. BUT remember people don’t put everything online and you’ll have to fill in some gaps and make a lot of assumptions.
Now you are ready to write a persona!
There are so many ways you can do this. Everyone has their own way. You can just make bullet points about their hopes, fears and dreams but there’s a risk this will just be made up. They might end up being things these people actually don’t give a shit about. Write them in first person and add “said nobody, ever” to the end of every line and it’ll serve as a litmus test for bullshit.
I have three ways I write personas. It depends on who it is and what I feel like writing.
- Write a short story. About their day, their morning, their weekend, their childhood. Whatever helps you unlock useful insights. It doesn’t have to be about the world your product lives in but it does help.
- Write it in the form of a phone conversation with their best friend. They’re telling them everything about their day/week/holiday/work frustrations. They could be having a rant or it could be good news or it could just be a long overdue catch up. This unlocks really honest, real stuff that people ACTUALLY care about. The things they remember and hang on to. Depending on your audience this could even be a letter or a “dear diary” but most people don’t write those anymore.
- Interview them! If you can’t find them in real life just make it up, using inspiration from your character(s) you’ve met through the above process.
But what should I put in my persona? ALWAYS include the following:
- Things they worry about / keep them up at night / some kind of tension or problem
- Things that make them happy / they look forward to etc
- Things they are currently reading / doing / consuming / maybe involving something they’re doing in place of using your brand e.g. they’re getting the bus and you want to try convince them to cycle
- Try and include media. So think about what they read e.g. magazines and Newspapers, what they watch on TV, what they might walk past.
And then whatever else you want to include that’ll help you get to know them. Where do they live? What do they do for work? What’s in their pockets? What’s in their bag? Who they live with? What’s their Discover Weekly on Spotify? None of these absolutely have to be included but think about things that would help you get to know a real person. These are all really easy things to touch on naturally in the above persona formats.