Haila Yates

Haila Yates

Yesterday, I shared a worksheet to help you create personas, which is a technique to focus your communications on the people who matter most to your success. Today, Haila Yates shares the story of how her nonprofit is using the personas they are creating to make better marketing and communications decisions.  ~Kivi

Guest Post by Haila Yates of Greenlights for Nonprofit Success

Three months ago, I would have told you that I know my audience well. Yes, we’re targeted, we survey them, capture data in our CRM, segment our lists, etc. And it’s not that it wasn’t true. Rather, we had no idea how much we were missing without audience personas.

Now, as a participant in Kivi’s Mentoring Program, I’ve worked with my team at Greenlights for Nonprofit Success to formalize our target audiences and develop personas that we can all refer to easily. The process and insight has had immediate impact in our work and the decisions we’re making, from simple messaging tweaks to event branding and tagline development.

How to Involve Staff

  • Include staff who are most familiar with each of your target audiences in developing personas. It not only helps you develop a better persona, but it gets staff thinking from the perspective of their audience. We had several aha moments, like realizing that a happy hour might not be the best social activity for one of our donor segments.
  • Train staff on personas. Once our personas are final, we’ll create a PowerPoint with one slide per persona. We’re doing this for three reasons: 1) it forces us to be succinct and thoughtful with our personas, 2) we’re all communicators, so we should all be focused on the same audiences for consistent messaging, and 3) this gives us a chance to get more staff feedback on the personas (ie: did we miss a key value for a certain persona?).
  • Keep personas top-of-mind. After we incorporate any additional feedback from staff, we’ll create a one-pager that staff can post near their desk for easy reference. The one-pager will include a photo that represents each persona and some key info, like which audience they represent, their name, a short description and their values.

How to Use Personas to Make Decisions

  • Refer to specific personas when reviewing or drafting messages (emails, tweets, articles, etc.). We recently did a materials review and grouped the materials by audience segment. We then reviewed and edited messaging for each. This resulted in new ideas and simple tweaks, like changing “complimentary hors d’oeuvres,” which felt a little too formal for the target audience, to “includes a catered reception.”
  • Kickoff new projects by first reviewing target audience personas. We’re rebranding an annual event and turning it into a fundraiser, which means a new name, logo and messaging. We kicked off our first brainstorm meeting to develop the event name by reviewing the target audience and then referred back to that when discussing which names would work best. We also referenced the target audience when pitching the new event and logo to our board. This helps everyone keep the audience top of mind (versus their personal opinions on word, color, or font).
  • Avoid brand blunders by testing new ideas with the target audience they’re developed for. We’re in the process of developing a new tagline for our organization, which can be a risky endeavor. To create something that strengthens our brand rather than damaging it, we started by identifying the three audience personas that the tagline must resonate most strongly with. When we select a top choice for our new tagline, we’ll test it with representatives from each of those audiences before implementing it.

What’s your advice to get the most out of audience personas?

Haila Yates is the Communications Director for Greenlights for Nonprofit Success. She has nine years of experience with nonprofit marketing/communications, with expertise in branding, marketing strategy, copywriting and editing, graphic design and website development. Get more nonprofit communications tips from her posts on Greenlights’ blog.