Understanding Bob: Audience Personas At Work
When we talk about “audience work,” that might sound vague. It might conjure a scene of someone tapping a hot mic, tossing out jokes, trying to warm up a studio full of fans awaiting a headliner.
We’re not talking about an opening act. We’re talking about targeted outreach informed by an in-depth analysis of who a specific brand or organization is trying to reach. There’s a big difference.
Much like opening acts like to tailor their set to the type of audience that appreciates the headliner (think: skip the ballads for the headbanging crowd), brands need to tailor their messaging to speak to the challenges, pain points and solutions their audiences are experiencing. This gets to the heart of WHYFOR’s Audience Personas.
It’s how innovaTel, a national telepsychiatry provider that partners with community-based organizations to improve access to care, better understands Bob.
And who’s Bob? He’s a composite character we developed during our Audience Persona process to help us, and innovaTel, get a better picture of what matters to someone managing a community mental health center.
And we didn’t just pluck him out of thin air. That’s what magicians do. Instead, we determined target audiences during a thorough workshop with innovaTel and gathered intel through a series of validation interviews from other Bob-types — none of whom were named Bob — to understand the pressures, goals and opportunities a professional in this field faces when trying to deliver care and improve outcomes for patients.
It was during those interviews that we discovered how Bob likes to receive information, what type of information he’s interested in receiving and how the information helps him, and other decision makers on his team, move forward with a new partner. Every Bob is different, but we were still able to see themes emerge that allowed us to create an illustration of a valuable audience specific to innovaTel.
And for innovaTel, we went through the same process with two other audiences because we understand the importance of nuance.
With those characters outlined, and then colored in thanks to first-party research, innovaTel came away from our Audience Persona work with a more informed visual of exactly who they’re talking to, and exactly how they should approach each of the audiences they’re trying to reach.
Like magic. Or an opening act that makes sure it knows who it’s playing to.
How well do you know your brand’s audience? Let us introduce you to Audience Personas.
Hey. Personas Have Lives, Too.
We’re all trackable. Like, even if we think we’re private, we’re actually not. We have our habits, our favorite Instagrammers and we gravitate towards brands and ideas that predictably sync with our personalities
We can be found. And we are, regularly. Which means, brands should take note.
So, when we finish painting the detailed illustrations of our Audience Personas for clients at WHYFOR, we start following the breadcrumbs that sprinkle out from that work — work that identifies with low ambiguity who a business or brand or organization is trying to reach, with specificity. And once we follow those breadcrumbs, we animate the characters we’ve carved out during persona development, folding who they are and how they’re motivated into a blueprint that details where they can be found and how they can be reached.
This entire process, the one we refer to as H.A.L.O., builds on itself as we progress. So, if any of this sounds out there or if you feel like you’ve walked into the middle of a conversation — you have, a little. If you start from the beginning, it all makes sense.
But, now that we’re here, it’s time to consider the customer journey. At WHYFOR, we take a deeply empathetic approach to mapping and fully understanding the journey a persona will take with a brand. Beyond technical UX, we get down to routines. We explore the nitty gritty in a strategic, sensible way.
In short, based on the pain points and motivators we discovered while piecing together personas, we find where a brand fits in a consumer’s orbit. Is it at a conference or trade show (think pre- or post-COVID)? Is it on TikTok or LinkedIn? Is it online, outdoors or in an inbox? Or is it (gasp) over the phone?
And when we reach them, how should we talk to them? Based on what we know, what should we develop that they’d appreciate? A handy download, a fun video or an informative white paper? It all depends.
Our Audience Persona work isn’t complete until we know these things. Think of it as coloring in a picture after outlining it in great detail. It’s all about the shading, right?
The part that cannot be overlooked is that we can’t reach this point, effectively, without doing all the groundwork first. We can’t know how a brand fits into a consumer’s life until we know what the brand stands for and what the consumer looks like.
In other words, you can’t understand your specific audience until you understand yourself — as a business. It’s deep. And life advice-like. But true.
We’re walking clients through it all right now. And to our knowledge, no one has cried yet, except in celebration. We’re not even making that up.
Let us know when you’re ready to dive into your own journey.
Guess Who You’re Talking To? That’s So Old School
Hasbro sells a board game that asks players to use physical characteristics to guess the identity of a secret person their opponent has chosen. Remember that game, Guess Who? It’s a simple premise.
Is it a woman? Does she have glasses? Does he have a mustache? Is her hair red? That kind of thing.
On the most elementary level, and we mean at its most simplistic, it reminds us of the Audience Personas we create as part of our proprietary H.A.L.O. process. Instead of flipping down illustrations of people who don’t fit the persona we’re creating, like we would in the game, we use gigantic sticky notes or digital templates to build profiles of the types of people brands are trying to reach.
It’s a process, a fun, insightful one. It starts where our Anatomy Profile leaves off and leads to the development of an Avenues Plan. On its own, Audience Personas uncover not just how a segment of an audience looks and lives, but how they think, how they behave and what motivates them to act.
This is where things start to fit together. It’s where pieces start to slide into place, and where clients begin to understand why we questioned them about their anatomy and their values so relentlessly and specifically. Because, you have to know who you are and how people view you in order to know who you want to talk to and understand why they would want to hear you.
We could get fancy here and talk about psychographics and demographics, and then pick apart the delineations and necessities of both. But we won’t. We’re going to go Guess Who?-style and keep it simple. Because that falls in line with our approach. We ditch those traditionally bloated and often fluffy reports that never get used in favor of creating specific, actionable plans that feed off our Anatomy Profiles and move us to our customer journey analysis.
Audience Personas get to the root of why people make the choices they do, as it relates to brands. Our ultimate goal is to get to the nerve, to discover the pain point and then understand what factors motivate certain behaviors. Put simply, we want to understand pain points to alleviate them, understand questions audiences have so we can answer them and understand goals so we can help them achieve them.
The data we bring to the surface allows us to create a valuable narrative, featuring fictional characters based on a brand’s true story — like a high-quality, super-specific docudrama. And like any juicy drama, some of the characters (or personas) are driven by money (budgets), some by fame (personal notoriety), some by philosophies and principles (classic Cinderella/Jedi story).
Regardless, those unique motivations are the holy grail. Because ultimately, we want our work to influence decision making and impact revenue.
See? It’s a bit more high level than Guess Who?, but we also don’t shout “Cheater!” like we did as kids as we work through Audience Personas. We’re past that.
And once we’re past harvesting characteristics for brand-specific personas, we build them out so they’re easier to see. We’ll explain that process a bit more, soon.
Need some intel on your Audience Personas? Let’s talk.