Reader Personas: Why Your Content Creation Process Needs a Human Face

When you have a great idea for a piece of content, it’s tempting to sit down and hammer out a post before your creative juices leave you high and dry.

But before you do, you need to ask yourself a very important question; who am I writing this for, and what do they actually want?

There are over 400 million blog posts published online every day (HostingFacts, 2018), so you need to know who you’re writing for to avoid your piece getting lost in this ocean of content.

If you get it right, it can pay dividends; after all, content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising (Content Marketing Institute, 2017).

Knowing who your reader is, and why they want to read your content, can make the difference between your content providing value to an engaged audience and getting a few disinterested views.

To do this, you need to create a reader persona.

What is a Reader Persona?

A reader persona is a hypothetical person that represents the target audience for the piece of content you're writing. You don't just predict the persona and its characteristics, though; they're based on real data, but more on that later

A reader persona has interests, attributes, and habits just like a real person, and by understanding what these are you will be able to focus your content to reach and engage your reader more effectively.

You won’t just have one reader persona; you need several to cover the range of people who you are trying to target. Start with one core persona and you can build on it over time until you can identify distinct, separate personas.

It’s important to periodically check your reader personas to make sure they’re still relevant and fit for purpose.

Why Should You Create a Reader Persona?

To sell something, you need to understand your customer. That’s sales 101.

Writing content is no different; would you launch a product or service without undertaking market research to identify a target customer? I hope not. The content that you create is just another product, so the same rule applies.

When written with a well-researched reader persona in mind, your content is more likely to reach more of the right people, and have the effect that you intended. You can adapt your style to fit the audience, and reference things they’re likely to have knowledge of.

There are other benefits too.

By understanding your target audience, you’ll have a better idea about which subjects might appeal to them, so you can build a calendar of content that is likely to hit the mark.

It might not always be you writing content either, so by having reader personas to refer to, your colleagues or freelance writers can quickly understand who they’re writing for and focus their content accordingly.

How do I Create a Reader Persona?

There are a few steps that you need to go through to work out who you should be writing for, that will allow you to create your reader persona.

Demographics

Demographics are data which can tell you more about who your audience is based on characteristics on an individual or group level. Demographics include the following;

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Education
  • Annual Income
  • Education Level

You can find out about which demographics to focus your content on by looking at your existing audience and examining the audiences of your competitors.

Check out your own audience using Google Analytics, and use the functionality of Alexa to explore both your audience and that of competitor sites. Google AdWords can also help you understand key demographics by searching keywords related to your topic.

For more on how to do this, see our blog on demographics here.

When you’ve pulled together this information, you’ll start to create a picture of who your audience is made up of.

Psychographics

You might be less familiar with psychographics, but they’re just as important as demographics in constructing a reader persona.

Psychographics are the likes, habits, and activities of a group or an individual; the ‘why’ to the ‘who’ of demographics. With an understanding of psychographics, you can start to identify your audience’s pains and challenges.

With this information, you can then use your content to start solving those problems.

But how do you build up an understanding of the psychographics related to your audience?

You do it by speaking to existing clients, reaching out to followers across social media, and using your own knowledge of the problems your products or services solve.

To learn more about psychographics and how to determine your audience’s, we have a detailed guide here.

Give it a Name

Seriously. Give each persona you create a name. You can even go as far as finding a picture of somebody and allocating it that persona.

That way you will visualise a real person every time you write a piece of content for that persona, making the process even more effective and getting more value from each persona.

Where do You Fit in?

Pulling together demographic and psychographic data about a group of people is meaningless without context.

To give context to your reader persona, think about where your brand, product, or service fits in relation to your reader persona.

How can your offering help this hypothetical person complete tasks, overcome pains, and achieve their larger goals?

You might have a value proposition which you can draw upon to help provide you with this context. If not, look at the key sales messages which your company uses, to remind you what makes your offering valuable.

This understanding should form the backdrop to your content, but it shouldn’t be made explicit; your content should never read like a sales pitch.

Making Your Persona Work for You

Remember, creating a reader persona is just a means to an end. Its purpose is to act as a guide and reminder of the specific reader you’re making content for. With this reminder to hand, you can then attempt to help your audience ease their pains and overcome their challenges.

After you have created your first, core reader persona, use it to plan out a series of content pieces which address the pain points of that persona.

When these have been planned, use your reader persona as a reference throughout the writing process; print it out and have it on your desk or open in a separate window next to where you’re writing.

If you need a template to build your reader personas, get in touch.

Use your persona as part of the editing process too. Whoever is proofing and editing your work should have access to the reader persona so they can make sure the content is consistently hitting the mark.

Next Steps

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, creating a reader persona isn’t a one-time event. You should review it periodically, to fine-tune it and make sure it’s still relevant. Over time you will identify distinct, separate personas for your different products or services.

Done well, your reader personas will make your content more relevant, engaging, and efficient at building your brand authority. And that way lies more leads, and ultimately more business.

Good luck!

Prize Content creates reader personas for our clients as part of a comprehensive strategy process, to set up businesses’ content for success. To find out more, get in touch today on 020 3920 6347.

Published by Danny Kershaw

Account Manager

Taking SMEs on a journey to business growth through effective content marketing