Personas for Subaru turned into a major cause marketing campaign.
Personas for Subaru turned into a major cause marketing campaign.

Now that we’ve discussed using personas for PR, let’s talk about how you create them. Years ago, I worked with a small Subaru dealer. Due to geographic restrictions from another dealer nearby, we were limited in what we could do for unique messaging. Most of the ads went to “a Subaru dealer near you.” It was my job to create an integrated campagn to draw customers to THIS dealer without breaking any of the franchise rules.

I began to observe Subaru drivers. Although they were quite disparate in terms of age, gender, and ethnicity, they shared a couple of common behaviors. One group I nicknamed the “sporty” group. I found that a huge number of Subaru drivers in the area were both cyclists and cross-country skiers. So my first persona included the “sporty couple,” very outdoorsy and active. I also found through casual surveying of this group at a cycling event that they were very environmentally conscious and voted with the Democrats.

Another group of customers I labeled the “dog rescuers.” These were mainly women who were passionate about the humane treatment of animals and rescuing dogs in particular. These women typically were also involved in charity work, sometimes for animal rescue sometimes for others.

I used these two personas to build my strategies which were a combination of events, PR and online marketing. We supported the local humane society, offered cars to any local 5K’s that needed them, and sponsored all the local cycling and cross-country races we could find. All of these events were carefully synchronized with online messaging, relevant content on blogs and news stories for the charities. As a result, the dealership business exploded. One woman even drove from South Dakota to Minnesota as she said “because you helped the dogs.” Eventually, Subaru noticed that other dealers were having similar success with this type of approach around the country. You may be familiar with their “Share the Love” program every fall. That program is a direct result of projects like mine in Minnesota.

Let’s assume we’ve built a case here. What is the process, then, for creating your personas? Here is how I go about it. Remember that my clients do not have huge budgets. This doesn’t have to be a months-long process and please, don’t just use quantitative data. Use your eyes, and your ears and the power of simple observation to create these as well.

We can use the 5W’s to create personas in fact, it’s pretty easy. The idea is to get a rough outline, then work from there.

  1. Who is your target audience? I like to think about the roles my target audience plays rather than age, etc. Are they dads? Athletes like our Subaru customers? Dog rescuers? If there is a predominant gender state that. Add any descriptive characteristics that you think will impact behavior, but also add some that are visual. This just helps you get to know them better.
  2. What is their problem? What is the premise behind your product, service or message that solves this problem? This is an important thing to know. For example, a weighted hula hoop. The problem this product addresses is that women’s “middle” section might be growing due to reaching midlife, or it could be too much stress. (Stress creates a hormone cortisol, which adds to belly fat.) So we’ve got pretty disparate ages and such, but we know their common problem.
  3. Where do they get their information? This is the most important piece of it for me. Content acquisition behavior is #1 when developing personas. You need to go where they hang out, and put your information there.
  4. When do they buy? Or when do they move to the next stage of the buying cycle?
  5. Why do they want this? This goes back to the problem again, but it’s more specific to features and specific benefits.

Once you’ve answered the 5W’s, you should have a pretty decent picture. Now start refining from there by looking at existing customer information or again, observe. You can do informal surveys, use online and social analytics, check folks out at events, there are lots of ways to test the accuracy of your personas.

Create 2-3 personas for each campaign. Test your messages against those personas. Get to know your own Betty Crockers really, really well. Your results should be increased engagement and faster time to responses on calls to action. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, your strategies should seem pretty become pretty obvious to you.

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