When it comes to producing campaigns or appeals for engagement with the public, creating citizen personas is a useful way to really get the most out of your resources.
What is a citizen persona?
You may have heard the term 'buyer persona'. This is primarily used by brands and services to establish a way to understand their customers. They create imagined personalities so it's easier to understand their behaviors and needs.
The persona would literally be described as a person with a name, age, location, job and other details that explain broadly, what type of person they are and how they behave.
Although the citizen persona is slightly different in that they are not necessarily making a financial transaction for a product, they are still engaging with you as a customer would. Think along the lines of reporting suspicious activity, applying for a permit, using the local park regularly. Every citizen is essentially a customer of your service, they just pay through taxation rather than in a retail sense.
Why should I create citizen personas?
Taking time to map out all the types of citizens you have will be an amazing time saving exercise when it comes to creating campaigns or even managing a widespread emergency. Understanding how people consume their information will help you be more specific when engaging with them.
How can I create my citizen persona?
It doesn't have to be complicated, but it is the cornerstone of any communication strategy, so try to spend some time working on it. If you put the work in once, it will save you a lot of time and wasted efforts down the line.
Here are some things to include;
- Name, age, location, interests and other personal, background information.
- Employment background information, including job title (if they have one), whether or not they are a decision-maker or the type of influence they might have on decision-makers.
- Day-in-the-life, with a first-person description from the persona themselves. This is important, as you should be able to have a full understanding of the persona from this perspective. In other words, spend a few moments in their shoes, then write a paragraph or two about their day.
- What's important to them. It’s important to be as focused and targeted here as possible. Everyone has different needs and this is where you can start getting granular about behaviors and look at the potential for behavior change through targeted messaging.
- Challenges and complaints. Is this someone who is always late for work because the bus is unreliable? What frustrates them about the services they experience? How easily will you be able to engage with them? What motivates them?
- Content preferences. Given what we know about the citizen persona, how does he or she like to consume content? This includes preferred channels, the tone, style and voice that will most resonate, content formats and more.
Here's an example;
Jane is 28 and she lives a few blocks from downtown in a one bedroom apartment. She is employed full time as a dental nurse and owns a dog. Her main hobby is cycling although she does also own a car, which she uses to commute 25 miles to work each day. She doesn't use much social media apart from Instagram and gets her news from Apple News and sometimes on Twitter.
The most important thing to her is that she can cycle on the cycle routes along the river every weekend before meeting her friends for brunch. Her biggest frustration at the moment is that part of the cycle route has now been closed for a few months and she has to leave her bike in a different part of town which meant her bike was stolen.
How will a citizen persona help me?
As you can see from the example above, we have a real picture of one of our possible citizens. The clearer the picture means that we can now tailor our campaigns to get the maximum return on investment (time, money and resources).
This means that if you know the person, you can meet them where they are in comms terms and then be sure that what you are saying or expecting of them is more likely to hit home.
When it comes to creating a campaign around bike theft, we can now see how we would need to engage with Jane probably out of her work hours, before and after her commute to work and maybe even along the cycle route she takes. We need to be mindful that she is already frustrated with the city and is probably going to be harder to engage with since her bike was stolen.
How can I do this when there are so many people in our community?
You don't have to do one for every person, but maybe consider your primary demographics and work on those that you are most likely to engage with on a regular basis. As situations change or you see a new community or group emerge, you can create new citizen personas.
The best thing you can do is try it on yourself. Once you've got the method, you'll see how helpful it can be in your communication strategy in the future.
We're hosting a free online workshop to help you understand and utilize citizen personas. Sign up below to join us as we walk you through the process and provide you with your free template to help you level up your comms engagement.