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What is an Audience Persona?

Written By:

Alli Pappathopoulos

Last Updated:

February 4, 2020

TL;DR

Audience personas help us narrow down our focus and communicate more effectively with the people we're most qualified to help.

Invitation

In marketing and communications, “audience persona” is a way of saying target customer, customer profile, buyer persona, etc. Today, we’re talking about why developing an audience persona is so important to our outreach strategies, how defining our persona might change our message and why getting narrow and specific is actually a great decision.

Plus, I’m sharing the Audience Persona Worksheet I use to define these profiles with my clients. Grab it here!

So, why is developing an audience persona so critical to your outreach plans?

It helps us understand who we’re trying to reach, and the values, pain points, interests and demographic information that defines those people. Gaining a good understanding of those variables helps us determine the right strategies, tactics and messages to use in our outreach.

Does our audience persona change our message?

Ultimately, no – our real message (the Gospel!) doesn’t change, of course, but defining our avatar may change the perspectives, channels, sub-messages, and tactics we use to reach those people.

For example, I was recently working through this exercise with a pastor, and through our conversation, we uncovered that the people in his target market were busy, working parents who were stretched for margin and family time, yet their families meant everything to them. They dealt with long commutes, packed weekends full of sports and family obligations and by the time Sunday mornings rolled around, they were tired…and mostly just dreading Mondays.

Based on what we were learning about our audience, we decided that some our outreach content should revolve around (quick! easy!) activities, lessons and studies that families can do together. We needed to put 15-minute family devotions and Bible lessons into parents’ hands so they felt like they had the tools they needed to talk to their children about Jesus, and they had the support of a local pastor.

Taking the concept further, it’s not just about marketing. Consider how gaining this perspective with your audience – one of empathy and understanding of their pain points and struggles – can help your congregation better address their needs. Do the prospects mentioned above need MORE programs and commitments? Probably not. But they still need Jesus. How can we answer that need in a way that doesn’t add to their load, but provides true relief and rest? (Matt. 11:28-30)

Niching Down

One of the toughest parts of the persona exercise is getting specific. We often fear that specific means limiting and that we might alienate one group or another. But here’s the thing:

If we’re trying to attract everybody, we end up appealing to nobody.

That’s right – in our over-communicated-to world, blanket statements simply end up feeling bland and generic. We desire to be spoken to directly, to be understood, and to share our stories with people we believe will understand them. Defining our audience, and getting narrow in our focus actually has a way of speaking to the hearts of the people you’re trying to reach in an authentic and real way, helping your outreach to be more effective.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have more than one persona, though. In many cases this is true, especially in our multi-generational, cross-cultural churches. When we target multiple personas, we simply must make sure that we define each thoroughly, and then create an outreach plan that speaks effectively to each group.

Free Worksheet: Audience Persona

I’ve designed a profiling worksheet that can help congregations define and discover their target avatar. Click here to download the worksheet.

Once you complete the exercise, let me know how it goes! I’d love to chat with you more about the people you’re trying to reach!

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