“Emma is a 40-year-old mum who lives in Guildford, loves brie, Barolo and badgers, drives a Ford Focus, and wants to samba with Styles on Strictly.”
To anyone in the marketing world, buyer personas are the nuts and bolts of a solid content marketing strategy. They’re like the results of a personality test on a representative of your target audience.
They provide the information to help target Emma with content she’ll be interested in, but personas are also designed to help the creative process. This is based on a long-established idea about creativity: it’s best to have a person in mind when you’re creating content. The American writer Kurt Vonnegut said: “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, your story will get pneumonia.”
So, if you create content for everyone, you create content for no-one.
The issue with personas, though, is that they don’t help you develop empathy for your audience. Their age, some bullet points about their favourite ice cream flavour and attaching a codename like ‘Milleniatron’ isn’t going to allow another human to develop empathy with that persona – and empathy is content gold.
The reason writing for one person works is because it’s a display of empathy. You’re thinking of a person who represents your audience and asking: What can I do to help them? Can I teach them something they don’t know? How can I entertain them and make them feel warm inside? How can I help them see the world in a different way?
So, if we really want to tell great stories, we don’t need an abstract persona, we a source of inspiration. We need a muse.
The challenge is that you won’t find your muse in a PowerPoint deck. You find your muse by talking and listening to your audience as much as possible, and hearing their stories until you truly understand their challenges and needs.
Do this enough, and the content creation will come more easily and be more effective because you’ll be developing ideas that actually help your audience and improve their lives. Your content for that one specific muse will end up reaching and inspiring many more like-minded people, not just Emma from Guildford.