How creating audience personas can boost engagement for internal communications

By Rosie Nicholas, Freelance journalist and editor

November 23, 2020 

When the 2020 line-up of Formula One drivers were asked how they’d describe their sport to a five year old, there were many different responses and explanations - but they all had a similar theme.

Many used words such as ‘fast’, ‘fun’ and ‘amazing’: terms that a young child can understand. So here, these F1 drivers had identified their audience - a five year old - and adjusted their message content and style in a way they could comprehend. 

This shows it’s a lot easier to adapt your message if you know who you’re talking to and what they want. This is particularly true with internal communications, because you’ll have vital brand messages you need to convey.

Having more personalised communications is one of many trends for 2020, and the expectation has increased with Millennial employees especially. That’s because this group (and Gen Z-ers) are used to being digitally connected and have personalised feeds, and are increasingly expecting this at work. So by tailoring communications to your different audiences, you can be one step ahead. Those communications channels are built on employees personas within your brand - which makes for a better experience for employees.

Start by identifying your target audience - they will be the ones who get the most value from your communications - and define them. Go into further detail using data that will help your focus (eg age, job role etc). You can then develop your personas by getting to understand their needs, challenges, values and desires. It’s also a learning opportunity for you to find out how to cater for your audience.

You can help develop your personas by:
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Using a picture and name
Adding a descriptive group name
Having consistent metrics and layouts
Sharing them with internal influencers
Constantly updating profiles as your brand changes

Even Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has used special audience personas when writing annual reports - his sisters. In his preface for A Plain English Handbook (1998), he wrote:

“...Though highly intelligent, they are not experts in accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is simply to give them the information I would wish them to supply me if our positions were reversed. To succeed, I don’t need to be Shakespeare; I must, though, have a sincere desire to inform.

“No siblings to write to? Borrow mine: Just begin with “Dear Doris and Bertie.”

So by using personas to tailor experiences, your organisation can see success in driving engagement because they will appeal to a larger audience (rather than using a general approach). It’s more efficient and cost-effective, too. It’ll also help you see the workforce as manageable groups, increase your empathy with them, and help with leadership buy-in for new solutions.

So think of your brand’s Doris and Bertie - or your own audience personas - when creating internal communications. It’s your chance to tailor your message and boost your overall strategy for those who need this vital information.