Any marketer involved in digital marketing, which is a critical aspect of any marketing today, has likely created or been a part of creating “personas” of their audience. The persona is synthesized from data collected on a company’s audience. It details, largely in simple words or point form, the customers age range, gender, role (job), income etc. Personas can be incredibly helpful across teams and ensuring consistency in advertising creative, brand positioning and building inbound strategies. But have you tried a Persona Narrative?
We started deploying Persona Narratives (PN) about a year ago and they’ve proved to be an incredibly powerful addition to the persona. A PN is basically a story that is written based on the persona. Where a persona is driven by data, the PN is is driven by the power of the story of the customer. Personas can be somewhat cold and mechanical, whereas a story communicates the “idea” and “emotion” of the customer. People respond far better to stories than data and point form text. Our idea for the Persona Narrative came out of Jeff Bezos’ banning PowerPoints and point form text in executive meetings, something he holds to very strongly.
Writing a Persona Narrative
We’ve found that a PN is often best written in a collaborative fashion. Once you have your three to five personas completed, you’ll want a PN for each persona. Assign a team member, perhaps the one who’s really good at creative writing on the team, to start the story. It can be in a word processing doc, best when it’s one that can be easily shared like a Google Doc.
The story is best written considering the lifestyle and/or activities of your personas. For a B2B persona, it may be a “typical day at work” and for a B2C it may be a “typical day in the life”. For day-in-the-life PN’s, start with waking up and their morning routines and then how they go about their day. For tourism markets, you might tell a story about how they would move about your city or region and the things they would do. Be sure to use verbs, nouns and adjectives in proper, conjunctive sentences. You’re telling a real-life story. Make sure it’s flowing and not formal and boring.
A PN doesn’t have to be a book or run on for several pages. We find the most effective PN’s run no more than three pages. Once the initial draft is written, have the team collaborate on it. That way, the team feels a part of the story and will gain and add interesting insights and aspects.
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Why Persona Narratives Are Powerful
A PN tells a story, but for marketers, it helps them to get inside the head of their customers. To be in their shoes for a day. A good PN can lead a team to think of new ways to reach and engage with their target audience they hadn’t thought of before. For your agency, it can be a powerful tool for a creative director in developing creative.
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Humans have been telling stories far longer than we’ve been analyzing data and writing algorithms. We absorb stories, narratives, far better than any other form of human communication.
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Give it a try. Contact us if you want to have us help you write Persona Narratives or discuss more around the benefits. It’s easy to do and you’ll be amazed at the results.

About the Author Giles Crouch

Giles is managing partner of Ekspansiv, a global digital business advisory firm to news media companies . A polymath with over 20 years experience in the digital world, Giles brings together marketing communications, digital anthropology and digital behavioural economics for client projects. He has extensive experience with news media and publishing. Giles is also regularly interviewed by media regarding technology and industry trends. He has completed over 300 digital research projects for clients around the world. Giles co-founded the Ice Awards, an advertising creative awards program in 2001. His clients have included, newspaper, magazine and book publishers as well as pure-play digital media companies. He occasionally works as interim CIO or CDO and senior marketing guidance.

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