By: Lidia Varesco Racoma
Brand Strategist & Creative Marketer
Lidia Varesco Design
Determining your organization’s audience is a crucial part of branding and marketing. Developing a persona for each segment of your audience provides a framework for your content and assures that your outreach is strategic, focused and targeted.
What Is a Persona?
A persona is a representation of the target audience segment you are trying to reach based on internal data and research, and it includes the basics of who they are, as well as insights into their challenges and values. Some personas even include a name and image to make them easier to understand and use.
Why Do You Need a Persona?
A clear understanding of your audience will help you connect with and reach the right people. Personas help you develop messaging and content that addresses your audience’s concerns and needs, making for more genuine connections.
Types of Nonprofit Audience Personas
Nonprofits often have more than one audience segment. For example, you may be reaching out to the people you serve, donors, volunteers and other supporters. Each of these segments have different characteristics and needs, so it’s a good idea to create a persona for each of your key stakeholders.
TIP: Remember, your organization’s brand essence will stay consistent for each persona, but the messaging will likely change for each.
What Is Included in a Persona?
When developing a persona, it’s a good idea to gather as much knowledge as possible, using both data your organization has collected as well as outside data and research.
Here are some insights to consider:
- Demographics: What is their age, life or career stage, income level, primary language, and any other characteristics that are relevant to your organization?
- Education or work: What level of education do they have? What is their work environment, their role and/or responsibilities?
- Location: Where do they live? Is it urban or rural, in a small community or larger city? What is their time zone or region? Do you have a national, local or regional focus?
- Behavior: What inspires them to engage with your organization? How often do they engage with you?
- Values: What matters to them? List their top 3 values.
- Needs: What do they need personally or professionally? List their top three needs.
- Fears: What keeps them up at night? What do they worry about? List their top three fears.
- Pain points: What are their main frustrations or challenges? List their top three pain points.
- Affiliations: What organizations do they belong to or participate in? What groups are they a member of, both online and in-person?
- Technology: What level of tech-savvy do they possess? What technology do they use? How often do they use tech? What digital channels are they active on?
- News and inspiration: Where do they get their news? What do they read or watch? Do they get word-of-mouth referrals or advice from their personal or professional networks?
- Google search: What would they Google? What topics are of interest to them for necessity or amusement?
Feel free to exclude or add details that are relevant to your organization and its mission. It helps to do this exercise with members of your team from different departments to get a well-rounded picture of your audience.
How to Gather Audience Insights
The best place to start is with internal data gathered from your fundraising and marketing efforts (such as donor and email CRMs) and social media, website and content marketing analytics.
Surveys are a great way to capture audience data. One-on-one conversations or interviews can also provide more personal or specific insights.
Social media listening is another way to gather insights. Keep an eye on your social media accounts and consider: What keeps your audience engaged? What questions do they ask?
TIP: Participating in online groups relevant to your organization’s mission can also be useful as group members are often discussing their pain points and challenges.
You can also research public data relating to your ideal audience. Statistics and “state of” reports may offer a greater breadth of information than what you gather on your own.
TIP: When you find a useful report, bookmark it for easy access to it the following year.
Putting It All Together—And Using It
Once you have all these great insights, what do you do with them? Creating a visual reference makes it easier to share it with your team and actually put the knowledge into practice.
You can create a persona as a written document, use a template as a guide, or create a visual representation including names and images to bring the persona to life.
It’s useful to reference the audience personas when you are reviewing your marketing strategy, creating campaigns or developing new content.
A well-researched and developed audience persona will inform your branding and marketing and assure you are connecting with the right people in your content and outreach.
Download my Audience Persona Worksheet to get a head start on developing your organization’s persona.
Lidia Varesco Racoma of Lidia Varesco Design in Chicago empowers organizations to make a change through strategic branding and marketing design. She is a blogger and speaker and leads branding and creative marketing workshops for nonprofits and small businesses around the world. Lidia Varesco Design celebrated 20 years in business in November 2020.