Candidate Personas: Where to Start

By on March 27, 2019

We all know personas are one of the hot topics in (employer and consumer) branding right now, but not everyone knows the endless use cases for personas. Segmenting your target audiences can be done to inform:

  • Differences in customer journeys
  • An understanding of differing internal employee/associate dynamics
  • Website navigation insights, including SEO
  • Messaging nuances
  • Even prioritization of initiatives.

It’s no wonder why an agency’s persona-building capabilities can make or break a new business deal or even an existing client’s project success.

The problem is, personas have become a buzzword. So before any segmentation project begins, our job is to uncover what our client’s end goal truly is. Because personas can mean a hard deliverable with a write-up about a certain audience, or it can simply mean a unique media strategy for different audiences. For example, are you trying to understand a single target audience on a deeper level, or do you want to ensure you have key messages written for hard-to-fill audiences, or do you just want to show upper-management that your branding efforts are informed by true insights (and not just assumptions)?

We believe that the crux of any brand is uncovering what your target audience wants most, that you do best. So, you can see why personas are vital as step two in the branding process — they represent the target audience portion of that brand philosophy. We aren’t in the business of making stuff up. One, because the brand wouldn’t be sustainable, and two, because it wouldn’t be truly empathic or authentic to any audience. So, we start with these three steps:

  • Identify your why: For what purpose are you seeking to understand these group(s)?
    • Informing differences in candidate journeys
      • Clients may want to better understand what is going on in the marketplace in regards to certain audiences. They likely want to see key succinct differences between audiences to know their specific motivators for applying to or interacting with a brand
    • Informing an understanding of differing internal employee/associate dynamics
      • Often times, we’ve come across clients who have existing segmented employee buckets, and it becomes our job to understand why and how they’re different. And also to understand how their differences can all still ladder up to a single unified brand strategy. Or it could even be informing internally-facing initiatives, like D&I efforts. We just finished a project like this, where the sole focus was to uncover the current state of affairs among key diverse audiences specific to their experience at XYZ company.
    • Informing website navigation insights, including SEO
      • We know the way a software engineer searches for a job is different than how a marketer searches for a job. (Think hard skills and terminology, vs soft skills and previous experience). So we need to ensure we enhance and provide seamless journeys for differing candidates based on their desires and search methodologies.
    • Informing external recruitment messaging nuances
      • This is the request that we get most often. It’s so important for external audiences to feel understood and desired, with personalized relevant messages. Blasting the world with the same recruitment message for a data scientist and a customer service representative (for example) will diminish the strength of the EVP (that you should have in place already) because it proves a lack of care and understanding about what each of those audiences can bring to the company.
    • Informing prioritization of recruitment or talent brand initiatives
      • Your organization could be trying to decide what’s most important for the next fiscal recruitment year. It could be a year of recruiting tech talent or recruiting diverse/underrepresented talent.
    • Personas can also be used to inform something that’s not listed here. Like I said earlier, the use cases for personas or segmentation are endless. We welcome new and interesting challenges because we all benefit from learning even more about certain audiences and people groups.
  • Hone in on your approach, sort your audiences and set expectations about the final deliverable
    • Don’t try to segment your entire organization by role (unless you have an itty bitty company).
      • Bucket your employees by how they contribute to the greater mission of the organization. For example, place employees who solely support internal initiatives into one bucket. Another bucket could be employees who are customer-facing. Another one could be employees who build your products and/or services.
    • Communicate on how you want to utilize these personas within your organization
      • We’ve written personas as standalone infographic one-pagers meant to be distributed throughout the Talent Acquisition department of an organization. We’ve also gone straight to writing messaging, for certain audiences, without providing a digestible one-pager. It’s all about utility. You need to consider how your team will be using this information. In fact, you may just want audience-specific information to know how to best spend your media dollars. This goal-setting is crucial to set prior to beginning any persona development.
    • Set your approach
      • Are you going to work with existing robust research that has been done on these audiences, internally? Are you going to conduct focus groups or a representative number of IDI’s (in-depth one-on-one interviews) among your employee base? There are many ways to go about persona research. The keyword here is research. No persona can be informed or written without new, fresh and up-to-date research insights. This is, of course, where CKR Interactive does the heavy lifting. We want you to use the uncovered insights without feeling like you are drowning in the workload.
  • Begin the journey. And get ready for highly-specific actionable insights.

Reach out, and we will help solve your persona needs based on your goals.
-Jeanne & the CKR Branding Team

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