How To Use Personas in PR

For group segmentation, context matters, too.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

We can use per­so­nas in PR, too.

In mar­ket­ing, the use of “mar­ket­ing per­so­nas” is com­mon­place. As in most mar­ket­ing-related things, these per­so­nas are mostly derived from demo­graph­ic generalisations.

In PR, it makes more sense to group per­so­nas based on pre-exist­ing com­mu­nic­a­tion beha­viours — related to spe­cif­ic issues.

Here we go:

The Marketing Persona: “Anna”

Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

Example of a “Marketing Persona”

  • Persona Name: “Anna”
  • Age: 28 years old
  • Gender: Female
  • Occupation: Marketing Manager
  • Education: Master’s degree in Marketing
  • Income Level: $60,000 per year
  • Location: Urban area, liv­ing in a met­ro­pol­it­an city
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Interests: Digital mar­ket­ing, social media trends, yoga, travel, and culin­ary arts.
  • Behavioural Traits: Tech-savvy, val­ues work-life bal­ance, act­ively engages on social media plat­forms, par­tic­u­larly Instagram and LinkedIn.
  • Media Consumption: Regularly con­sumes con­tent on digit­al mar­ket­ing blogs, listens to pod­casts related to career growth and per­son­al devel­op­ment, and fol­lows influ­en­cers in the mar­ket­ing and life­style sectors.
  • Shopping Preferences: Prefers online shop­ping, val­ues qual­ity over quant­ity, seeks out eco-friendly and sus­tain­able brands.
  • Goals and Challenges: Aim to climb the cor­por­ate lad­der and become a mar­ket­ing dir­ect­or, face chal­lenges in keep­ing up with the fast-paced changes in digit­al mar­ket­ing, and seek to bal­ance a demand­ing career with per­son­al interests and well-being.
  • Values: Professional growth, sus­tain­ab­il­ity, social respons­ib­il­ity, per­son­al health and wellness.

Learn more: How To Use Personas in PR

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

The PR Persona: “Dave”

Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

Example of a “PR Persona”

Fundamentals

  • PR Persona Name: “Dave”
  • Member of Public: “Conscious Sharers” (approx. size: 35,000 in Sweden)
  • Activation (Situation): Dave is an envir­on­ment­ally con­scious con­sumer who reacts to news stor­ies about cli­mate change and sus­tain­ab­il­ity issues being shared on social media.

Psychographics

  • Values: Sustainability, trans­par­ency in cor­por­ate prac­tices, com­munity involvement.
  • Beliefs: Strongly believes that cor­por­a­tions should be account­able for their envir­on­ment­al impact.
  • Attitudes: Skeptical of cor­por­ate gre­en­wash­ing, appre­ci­at­ive of genu­ine efforts towards sustainability.

Communication Style

  • Active Channels: Frequently uses Facebook, Threads and LinkedIn to share opin­ions and art­icles about envir­on­ment­al issues. Engages in online for­ums and dis­cus­sion groups focused on sustainability.
  • Content Sharing: Prefers shar­ing well-researched art­icles, infograph­ics, and doc­u­ment­ary videos high­light­ing envir­on­ment­al issues and sus­tain­able practices.
  • Interaction Style: Vocal and assert­ive in dis­cus­sions, but open to con­struct­ive dia­logues. Values evid­ence-backed argu­ments and is quick to call out misinformation.

Media Habits

  • News Websites. Regularly fol­lows most nation­al news websites.
  • Podcasts and Documentaries. Listens to pod­casts on sus­tain­ab­il­ity and cor­por­ate respons­ib­il­ity. Watches doc­u­ment­ar­ies related to envir­on­ment­al issues.
  • Social Networks: Daily activ­ity on Facebook (espe­cially in groups), Threads, and LinkedIn. 

Influences

  • Thought Leaders: Influenced by thought lead­ers in envir­on­ment­al act­iv­ism and cor­por­ate sustainability.
  • Reputable Sources: Trusts con­tent from reput­able envir­on­ment­al organ­iz­a­tions and NGOs.

Goals

  • Increase Awareness: Seeks to spread aware­ness about envir­on­ment­al issues.
  • Influence the Agenda: Aims to influ­ence oth­ers, includ­ing cor­por­a­tions, to adopt more sus­tain­able practices.

Challenges

  • Finding Information: Finding cred­ible sources of inform­a­tion amidst the spread of misinformation.
  • Corporate Access: Engaging with cor­por­a­tions in a way that leads to the type of change they seek.

Learn more: How To Use Personas in PR

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

Which Persona Type Is Best?

Personas are used to make it easi­er to visu­al­ise, under­stand, and influ­ence dif­fer­ent types of people. However, a per­sona is a tool.

Which tool is the best? Well, it depends on the job.

Marketing per­so­nas are argu­ably bet­ter for tail­or­ing mar­ket­ing mes­sages. The demo­graph­ic approach is espe­cially use­ful for pro­mot­ing brands, products, and ser­vices via paid media (one-way) channels.

PR per­so­nas are argu­ably bet­ter for tail­or­ing two-way inter­ac­tion with stake­hold­ers, pub­lics, and influ­en­cers in a spe­cif­ic situation.

It’s also com­mon for mar­ket­ing- and PR per­so­nas to over­lap. Both will typ­ic­ally focus on chan­nel choices, media con­sump­tion habits, and goals. 

Personas in mar­ket­ing (demo­graph­ics) will typ­ic­ally be more stable over time. Personas in PR (psy­cho­graph­ics) are typ­ic­ally more pre­cisely con­nec­ted to a situ­ation import­ant to the brand. 

The main weak­ness of mar­ket­ing per­so­nas is that demo­graph­ic group­ing is weakly cor­rel­ated to shared com­mu­nic­a­tion beha­viours. The main weak­ness of PR per­so­nas is that they only apply to a spe­cif­ic situation.

Read also: The Publics in Public Relations

Why Use Personas in PR?

A PR per­sona can out­line psy­cho­graph­ic char­ac­ter­ist­ics, styles of com­mu­nic­a­tion, and media pref­er­ences. A PR per­sona can help PR pro­fes­sion­als tail­or com­mu­nic­a­tion strategies to effect­ively engage with indi­vidu­als who share sim­il­ar com­mu­nic­a­tion behaviours.

The idea is to engage in two-way com­mu­nic­a­tion (dia­logue) with a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the oth­er end of the conversation.

The basic premise is simple:

We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.”
— Anais Nin

Self-image is a power­ful motiv­at­or; people are more likely to respond pos­it­ively to mes­sages that res­on­ate with their per­cep­tion of them­selves. This align­ment is cru­cial in PR — when the sug­ges­ted action or mes­sage aligns with an indi­vidu­al’s self-image, com­pli­ance and engage­ment are sig­ni­fic­antly more likely. 

The Concept of Seriality

Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

Seriality: Context Matters

Seriality” is a concept that emerges from iden­tity- and social the­ory, par­tic­u­larly in the works of philo­soph­ers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Iris Marion Young. It refers to how indi­vidu­als are grouped based on shared char­ac­ter­ist­ics — without a strong sense of belong­ing or identity.

Seriality is a key concept in under­stand­ing the con­stancy and trans­form­a­tion of iden­tity, par­tic­u­larly in pub­lic present­a­tions of the self and its online mani­fest­a­tions.”
Source: M/​C Journal 1Marshall, P. (2014). Seriality and Persona. M/​C Journal, 17, 1 – 10. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​5​2​0​4​/​m​c​j​.​802

In Sartre’s exist­en­tial­ist frame­work, seri­al­ity describes a form of social col­lectiv­ity. According to him, people can be part of a series without neces­sar­ily shar­ing a uni­fied group iden­tity. For example, people wait­ing at a bus stop are con­nec­ted by their shared situ­ation (wait­ing for the bus) but do not neces­sar­ily form a cohes­ive group with a shared iden­tity. They are a series of sep­ar­ate indi­vidu­als, linked by a com­mon object­ive or condition.

Seriality, there­fore, is a way of under­stand­ing how indi­vidu­als can be part of col­lect­ive cat­egor­ies without neces­sar­ily hav­ing a shared demo­graph­ic­al identity. 

Learn more: The Publics in Public Relations

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

Beware of Hasty Generalisations

The idea behind cre­at­ing a per­sona in PR- or mar­ket­ing is to estab­lish a use­ful gen­er­al­isa­tion. However, a gen­er­al­isa­tion will always be a gen­er­al­isa­tion, so we must always remind ourselves that such assump­tions can cause harm.

This is where per­so­nas in PR typ­ic­ally out­shine per­so­nas in marketing:

Should we really be tail­or­ing any mar­ket­ing- or com­mu­nic­a­tion activ­it­ies based on people’s eth­ni­cit­ies, sexu­al pref­er­ences, or income classes?

While it cer­tainly can be done with the best of inten­tions, the ques­tion still lingers:

Should we?

Adapting your com­mu­nic­a­tion to people’s shared choices (of why, where, and how) in a spe­cif­ic con­text is a more agnost­ic approach to mar­ket­ing- and cor­por­ate com­mu­nic­a­tion segmenting.

  • In the eyes of advert­isers, we are demo­graph­ic entit­ies stripped of our essence, mere pup­pets of con­sump­tion with wal­lets in place of hearts.

Please sup­port my PR blog by shar­ing it with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: The Publics

Publics in Public Relations - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
The pub­lics in pub­lic relations.
Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

The Publics in Public Relations

Here’s how to define pub­lics in pub­lic relations:

Publics in PR = a psy­cho­graph­ic seg­ment (who) with sim­il­ar com­mu­nic­a­tion beha­viours (how) formed around a spe­cif­ic issue (why).

Please note:

Psychographic seg­ment = sim­il­ar­it­ies in cog­nit­ive driv­ing factors such as reas­on­ing, motiv­a­tions, atti­tudes, etc.

Communication beha­viours = how the pub­lic’s opin­ion is expressed (choice of mes­sage, rhet­or­ic­al fram­ing, and medi­um type).

Specific issue = determ­ined situ­ation­ally by a spe­cif­ic social object, often high on the agenda in news media or social media.

Learn more: The Publics in Public Relations

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Marshall, P. (2014). Seriality and Persona. M/​C Journal, 17, 1 – 10. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​5​2​0​4​/​m​c​j​.​802
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has

.

Subscribe to Spin Control—it’s 100% free!

Join 2,550+ fellow PR lovers and subscribe to Jerry’s free newsletter on communication and psychology.
What will you get?

> PR commentary on current events.
> Subscriber-only VIP content.
> My personal PR slides for .key and .ppt.
> Discounts on upcoming PR courses.
> Ebook on getting better PR ideas.
Subscribe to Spin Control today by clicking SUBMIT and get your first send-out instantly.


🔒 Your email address is safe with me.

Latest Posts
Similar Posts
Most Popular