There are few things more important as a publisher than having a true grasp of who your target audience is. Some may say it’s the foundation to building a successful editorial platform, associated content, and of course, your marketing strategy. The better you understand your current and best future readers and audience, the better you’ll be able to create content that truly meets their needs, pain points, and preferences. And in that spirit, the quicker you’ll be able to see upticks in your growth, engagement, and retention.
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It’s with that fundamental desire to know and master our audiences that the notion of personas have come into play – that is the breakdown of an audience into more succinct and understandable demographics, behaviors, needs, and wants. In creating personas for an audience, it allows publishers to glean a more tangible representation of their readers. Furthermore, in building out persona models, publishers can first hypothesize, then test, and finally validate and optimize how they market to and reach existing and new audiences.
There are a number of ways publishers can consider building out personas – and there are personas for different use cases. You may have personas for marketing that are different than your reader personas. If you’re at a crossroads with your publishing strategy, your existing reader personas may vary considerably with the new market (i.e., marketing persona) you’re trying to target.
You can build out personas not just on behavior, but by any number of factors. There are demographic personas that may mix factual and behavioral data (i.e., millennial mom in the midwest; GenZ student at an Ivy League college). There are also psychographic personas, where you are basing your delineation more on the mindset of the reader or potential reader than where they live, their household income, or how old they are.
1. Reader Personas
You may want to understand a reader persona, which is roughly defined as the persona that expresses your ideal reader. This will vary publication to publication, but you’d look at demographic data and psychographic data. You may even look towards your current most engaged audience to try to understand some behavioral patterns that you’d want to replicate in best future readers. In understanding your reader persona, it will give you the opportunity to create content custom tailored to their needs, whether it’s the Ivy League student who needs tips for productivity when they are studying for finals, or just simply understanding how best to market to them (i.e., we know they’ll be looking for back to school-related content and products around August).
2. Marketing Personas
Whereas your reader persona represents your best customer or user, consider your marketing persona as the person that sits at the very top of your marketing funnel. They are the person who you will be thinking of as it relates to your marketing efforts. In many cases, there will be a wide overlap between your user persona and your marketing persona, and so it may not even be that useful to mark a difference between the two.
But in the instance that you’re looking to change strategies or introduce a new vertical for instance, your marketing persona might take on a different demographic and psychographic altogether. You also may have specific marketing campaigns related to time of year (think Pride Month or Black History Month), where the target audience of your marketing efforts is more specific or different than your reader persona.
In this sense, it can be helpful to determine who your marketing persona is on a campaign basis to ensure your messaging is resonating and you’re communicating in an effective manner.
3. Blog Personas
If a reader persona represents the best reader for the publisher, and the marketing persona represents the best marketing audience, it’ll come as no surprise that a blog persona represents the ideal consumer of your blog.
Creating a blog persona is especially important because it will help you determine the high level editorial themes of your blog (to best address their needs, wants, and areas of friction) in addition to the more granular article content.
Does your persona gravitate more towards long form written content or do they like a mix of media? That will help inform whether your blog is editorial heavy or incorporates video or audio, for instance.
You might be wondering, what’s the difference between a target audience and a persona? It’s fair as their purposes are very similar – to help publishers understand the best consumers for their content.
The difference is a touch granular. Target audience refers to an entire group of people, whereas your persona is meant to be one individual, and is discussed as such. You may hear the term TAM, which refers to total addressable market.
The total addressable market can refer to the target audience as a whole, which is to say, the collection of all of the personas we are aiming to reach.
As previously discussed, personas allow publishers and marketers to get a better understanding of their audiences, and to deliver tailored marketing messages and content. That level of personalization is crucial for ensuring that readers develop a strong affinity (and ideally a strong evangelism) for publishers who serve up the right content to them.
In that sense, personas help publishers develop a circular loyalty loop, wherein readers feel understood and seen and engage more deeply with the content, which gives publishers enough information to understand them and serve them the content they want.
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