Personas As A Tool For Effective Communication


Understanding the CEO and key influencer groups you are working on convincing that your community should be on their short list of consideration for business expansion is key to success.  One technique to better understand your WHO target is to create a written persona that describes them.

What is a Persona?

A persona is a fictional character created to represent a target group that exhibits similar patterns in their decision-making.  Personas are used as part of the marketing segmentation process.  You create a narrative that summarizes each segment’s needs and how your community’s brand promise delivers a competitive solution.  Personas help drive relevance and consistency in delivery of your community’s promotional messaging.

You could define a persona in a number of different ways using demographics (e.g. age, geographic location, etc.) or psychographic (lifestyle attributes).  The key though is to write define the persona so it is actionable.  With that in mind, for economic development, I’d stick with creating industry-focused personas.

Personas can help you by keeping everybody aligned on what the decision-maker really needs and the benefit your community is promising.  In my experience it serves as a shield that help protect your promotion from Management directed copy that is superfluous to the people you are trying to communicate with.  (That’s my polite way of describing copy that speaks to Management’s ego rather than to the decision-maker).  It also serves as a guide to Agency creatives who are working on developing promotional material for you.  In fact, most Agencies will try and write personas for their internal use if you do not provide any to them.  Trust me, it is far better if they work from something you are aligned to.

How Do I Write a Persona?

Personas requires some market research before authoring.  But the steps are really not difficult once you have the data.  HubSpot recently sent an email with a great 1-2-3 description of how to author a persona.  It is a good read and refreshingly short.  I would encourage you to use it as your guide.  You have to register to get the template, but it is worth it.

By the way, completely off topic but, if you haven’t used HubSpot’s free Marketing Grader tool you are missing out.  I use it frequently to evaluate the technical performance of the website.  The last time I used the tool, the website scored an 83 out of 100.  Use it to evaluate your website and let me know how your score compares.  My personal rule of thumb is your website should get a score above 80.  If it doesn’t, it’s time to get busy!

Here is the framework of a Persona –

  • Background
  • Demographics
  • Identifiers
  • Goals
  • Needs/Challenges
  • How Your Community Helps
  • Quotes
  • Objections
  • Promise
  • Elevator Pitch

What Does a Typical Persona Look Like?

Rather than tell you, I decided to use the persona I have authored for the Strengthening Brand America Project as a real life case study.

To get the data I needed to author the persona I launched a short market research study using my favorite tool – SurveyMonkey.  If you haven’t already, take the 4-question survey so you can see what it looks like an experience how easy it is to collect the data you need.

From the responses to this survey, I wrote a persona for visitors to the website.  Just download the PDF and you can see how the survey results feed into the persona document.

The persona guides my choices on what topics to focus on for Blog posts.  The understanding that most visitors have a promotional budget under $100,000 per year is critically important to ensuring what I am advising can actually be implemented.

As an aside, I will be updating the persona with any new data you provided in your survey response.

Note, that the persona also helps me, and my partners, better understand the challenges you are facing.  As an example, the challenge of time is one we will try to address by structuring the website is a way that makes it even easier to navigate.  You will see some tab changes in the near future.

Hopefully, by sharing this persona I have been able to accomplish two things.  First, to illustrate what a persona actually looks like so it is easier for you to write one.  And second, to help you better understand the mission of website and how it can help you be more successful as an economic developer.


I would love to hear your experience (positive or negative) in the use of personas.  I’d also like comments on the one I’ve authored for visitors to the website.  You will likely have ideas that will help me make the document even more useful so I can provide you a better service.

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Check Out My Free eBook On Strategic Planning

This eBook provides guidance on how to create a strategic plan for your community.  If your community is impacted by the shale energy industry, I believe it is a must read.  If not, the process and model described in the eBook can still be applied to help your community create an effective strategic development plan.  Click the above link or copy and paste this link into your browser –


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6 Comments so far

  1. […]   […]

  2. JP Obbagy

    November 20, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this. A great article and excellent resources on the website. I will share as well.

  3. Martha Bartlett Piland

    November 20, 2012

    This was a good article. Thanks for sharing!

    I agree that this is an effective tool for better marketing efforts. Using personas also helps marketers focus. If you try to be all things to all people, you end up being nothing!

  4. Adele Revella (@buyerpersona)

    November 21, 2012

    It’s helpful to think of buyer personas as a tool, and like many tools, the quality should vary based on the task at hand. A hand saw and a diamond wheel are both cutting tools, but they are not at all similar if you consider the result they produce.

    Many marketers are simply Making Stuff Up (I call this MSU) about their marketing messaging and strategies, which is indeed a very blunt instrument. Your recommendations, plus those in the Hubspot post you referenced, provide a bit more sharpness than MSU. But the attributes of personas you described, plus the survey methodology for research, is not recommended for strategic marketing.

    This doesn’t mean that persona development is a difficult task, or that marketers and non-professional researchers can’t build highly insightful buyer personas. Most people can easily learn how to conduct a specialized kind of qualitative interview that reveals the deep insights needed for corporate planning, strategy and strategic market segmentation.

    If you want to know more about the attributes of buyer personas that inform strategic decisions, I have a free (no registration) ebook, The Buyer Persona Manifesto, at

  5. Filiberto

    November 24, 2012

    great tool, too often forgotten or understestimated. I usually present it to my customers within “a day in a life” format, which is simple and translates the message in an effective way

  6. Sumit Roy

    November 26, 2012

    While I like your approach of writing Personas of your Target Group, another neglected tool is writing up your own Brand’s Persona.

    Especially useful if there’s more than one person speaking on behalf of the brand.

    Authors are exceptionally good at creating “brand personas” that bond with their audience. They work in “likable flaws” that make the “brand” more human.

    Most brand architects stay with making the brand “warm, likeable and friendly”.

    With that kind of thinking, Arthur Conan Doyle could never have created a Sherlock Holmes, possibly the world’s most famous “detective” brand.

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