When you’re brainstorming and determining personas for your marketing strategy, how detailed do you need to be? In this episode, Elizabeth and Steve discuss the risks and benefits of adding Diversity to your Personas.
Congrats and welcome back to co-host Elizabeth and her new baby girl!
Should personas be diverse?
- Standard line until recently: Persona should match the gender and ethnicity of the majority of the audience
- Too much diversity creates cognitive dissonance – we want to focus on personas with our basic “animal” brain. When we have too much detail and start thinking too hard you lose sight of the majority and the necessary details
Start to focus on how that minority personality is so special, rather than how the general persona needs to be addressed
Charity Break: DonorsChoose.org
But do we actually need that?
- Sometimes the extra level of detail and personality is good
- Steve’s anonymous client example: membership-based group striving to build diversity
They needed to address all different personas
- Consider the shared frustrations and aspirations of the whole
- So in that instance, a lack of diversity in personas could lead to inadvertently making marketing materials that kept the status quo. That made minorities feel uncomfortable, even as they made the majority feel comfortable.
- But to make the personas minorities would bring along a lot of extra baggage. A lot of unsaid struggle or discrimination.
- They would make them into something the majority of the audience was not.
- A second set of personas may be necessary
- Consider the goals of the organization
- When diversity is a goal, a second set is appropriate
- Build for the majority and put that persona first, then consider the minority and build for that
- Implement a second set of collateral if you feel it’s necessary instead of revising the original
- Don’t push the diversity goal away from the majority
Where is this applicable?
- Membership organizations
- Recruitment marketing – HR depts for example
- Employer branding marketing to employee base
How are these minority personas different?
- Psychographics are the big area of difference (fears & aspirations, desires, needs)
- Day in the life and background should be similar
- Are you talking about a minority? Use these resources
- If your goals are membership or any diversity growth, definitely build your majority first, then double check against your minority personality. If applicable, also address the minority.
- If you do have both majority and minority, every marketing piece should be built with the majority audience in mind, and then carefully examined through the eyes of the minority persona to make sure it has the same desired effect.
We hope you want to join us on our journey. Find us on IterativeMarketing.net, the hub for the methodology and community. Email us at [email protected], follow us on twitter at @iter8ive or join The Iterative Marketing Community LinkedIn group.
The Iterative Marketing Podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste.
Onward and upward!
Steve Robinson: Hello, Iterative marketers! Welcome to the Iterative Marketing podcast where each week we give marketers and entrepreneurs actionable ideas, techniques, and examples to improve your marketing results. If you want notes and links to the resources discussed on the show sign up to get them emailed to you each week at iterativemarketing.net. There you’ll also find the Iterative Marketing blog and our community LinkedIn group where you can share ideas and ask questions of your fellow iterative marketers. Now, let’s dive into the show.
Hello everyone and welcome to the Iterative Marketing podcast. I am your host Steve Robinson and with me as always is the gone way too long, Elizabeth Earin. How are you doing, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Earin: I am well. It’s nice to see you.
Steve Robinson: It is nice to see you. We’ve been in touch via phone here but we haven’t sat down to record in quite a while.
Elizabeth Earin: It has been a while, yes. So for our listeners who do not know or did not know I had a baby, we hadn’t made the announcement yet on the podcast because we thought we had a little extra time before the baby got here but she decided to come early, she came about six weeks early but we’re both out of the hospital and doing fine and I now have a beautiful four-month-old baby girl.
Steve Robinson: And she is beautiful.
Elizabeth Earin: Thank you, thank you.
Steve Robinson: Yeah, we decided we weren’t going to do the whole – we’re going to make sure if you’re walking around the room you’ve got a pillow in front of you and because you’re already only shot from here up anyway, so…
Elizabeth Earin: I thought we had some more time, we had a solid plan in place, she just decided to come a little early, so…
Steve Robinson: Yeah, so I want to apologize to our audience for a little gap we had here. We tried to get as many episodes in the can as possible but best laid plans didn’t align with Mother Nature and all that really matters though is that there is another beautiful Earin in this world and we get to come back and do this again.
Elizabeth Earin: Thank you, thank you. Yeah, I’m excited to be back. I’ve missed our podcasts, so I’m excited to see what we’re talking about today.
Steve Robinson: So I thought today we would talk about diversity in personas. We had something come up over at Brilliant Metrics that brought this topic to mind and really started a dialog with a client and internally in a completely different way. As you know, Elizabeth, we would regularly get asked about diversity within our personas, should our personas be more diverse. Right?
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah and it was –we always kind of steered away from that because you want to limit the number of personas you have. If you have too many personas then you kind of get meddled in those details and now you’re trying to create new content and new collateral and all of these new components for so many different people and it becomes unmanageable.
Steve Robinson: Yeah and our standard response was your persona should match your audience. So, if your audience is not diverse then don’t try and make your personas diverse and that line really held up right up until it didn’t and so I thought we would–we talk through how that happened and talk through our reasoning for our standard line and how that might change in the future.
Elizabeth Earin: So, what was the standard line that we gave everyone?
Steve Robinson: Well, the standard line was that the persona should match the gender and ethnicity of the majority of the segments that it’s trying to reach and there were a couple of reasons for this.
Elizabeth Earin: So, the first reason has to do with cognitive dissonance and we’ve talked about this in past episodes but it’s when two ideas don’t fit well together and a great example of this when we’re talking about personas is that if we are documenting the persona for a plant manager and 90% of the plant managers are male but then we create a persona for Julia, a female, that doesn’t necessarily make sense and then what happens is that we get so focused on the fact that we’re now talking about this woman Julia when we’re typically interacting with males that it starts to sort of get in the way of just naturally being able to identify with this person.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. There are kind of two levels of our brain, right? There’s the conscious brain, the one that we work hard to think with and then there’s the more innate emotionally-driven animal type of brain and our goal with personas is to be able to tap into that more animal type of brain that more emotionally driven, empathy driven part of the brain and when you have something that makes you think like this is the wrong gender for what I know or this is the wrong ethnicity for what I know about this particular person then it gets in the way of that more guttural part of your brain being able to empathize with that persona and pretend that’s a real person which is what you want, you want to trick your brain into thinking that that Julia is real.
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah, and this happens all the time. I mean I can’t tell you how many times we’ve sat in meetings with sales teams and they’ve brought this up and they’re like, well, but that’s not who it is, that’s not who we’re talking to, and so this is a real problem that organizations deal within their persona development process.
Steve Robinson: There’s a second reason why it’s dangerous to make your persona a minority within that targeted audience, whether it’s by gender, race, or even some other, even geography, like if they don’t live where they’re supposed to live but especially when it comes to gender and race because if you make your persona a minority then when you are empathizing with that persona, it comes with a lot of other, I hesitate to use the word baggage, but with a lot of other facets to that that persona, right? An example would be and I didn’t know this until I looked up the stat but veterinary professionals are 86% white and 81% female, right? So, if I create a persona named Bruce who’s a black male veterinary professional and I know that audience which I didn’t until I looked up that stat I would know that that Bruce is a minority, Bruce stands out and along with that I start to attach a whole lot of other ideas to Bruce, right?
Elizabeth Earin: So, you’d be focusing on things like gender and racial barriers rather than maybe some of the other things that would be associated with Sarah who’s our typical veterinarian that we see.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. Bruce becomes a trailblazer, he becomes a bold determined individual who is willing to buck the stereotypes and it’s not just limited to veterinarians, I mean this happens in a lot of professions. If you can think about what it would be like if you created a persona for a non-white or non-male coal mine worker or a female sheet-metal worker, even male nurses, I mean you start to when you get inside the head of what it’s like to be in a profession that you don’t match you start to carry with all the empathy of what it must be like to be a minority and face some discrimination or face just being the odd one out.
Elizabeth Earin: Well, our personas document fears and wants and desires and so when you are looking at those minority personalities or personas, when you are looking at the male nurse he’s going to necessarily have different aspirations or he may have different fears or different experiences that have led to that.
Steve Robinson: And so this has been our standard line but that last thing that you talked about, about some of those different fears and different aspirations and some of those that additional texture that comes with that particular persona sometimes that’s what we need and I think that’s what came up with this particular client. I’m not going to mention who it is because it’s, obviously diversity is delicate, that’s a delicate industry but I think when we get back from the charity break, we’ll dive into why sometimes you do want the extra facets that come along with that minority persona. And so with that, let’s go help some people.
Elizabeth Earin: Before we continue I would like to take a quick moment to ask you iterative marketers a small but meaningful favor, and ask that you give a few dollars to a charity that’s important to one of our own. This week’s charitable cause was sent in by an anonymous listener from California, they ask that you make a contribution to DonorsChoose, an organization helping public schoolteachers get funding for materials and experiences that will help their students learn. Right now there are thousands of classroom requests that you can help bring life to with a gift of any amount. Learn more at donorschoose.org or visit the link in the show notes. If you would like to submit your cause for consideration for our next podcast please visit iterativemarketing.net/podcast and click the Share a Cause button. We love sharing causes that are important to you.
Steve Robinson: And we are back. Okay, so back to the story at the beginning, we had this client that come along that basically changes up our standard line, right? And I’ll fill in a little bit here because Elizabeth obviously you’re not there interacting with this client, so for starters this client is a membership organization, so that changes things right there, we’re now marketing to try and bring members into the ranks and engage members within the ranks. Secondarily, diversity happens to be a major initiative both for membership and also for the industry at large that they represent and so this kind of changes the game about what it might mean to create personas that are focusing attention on the majority of the audience.
Elizabeth Earin: Well, with one of their goals being diversity not recognizing and not acknowledging those minority personalities is going to keep them from being able to accomplish their goals because they’re going to be stuck in designing marketing materials and collateral and messaging that fits that general population as opposed to these minority populations that they want to go after more.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. They could even create materials that inadvertently make minorities feel uncomfortable that could send exactly the opposite message that they want to and obviously it would be anything that they do consciously but by focusing to cater to that audience they could end up sabotaging their own diversity initiatives.
Elizabeth Earin: At the same time though if they focus on the personas, the minority personas, then they can actually create messaging that doesn’t apply to the original audience or the audience they had the original personas designed for as well, correct?
Steve Robinson: Yeah. And maybe not so much push away the original personas but focusing on the wrong psychographic tendencies, the wrong issues. Again bringing back to your point earlier, a minority within an industry, particularly a profession that is primarily male when they’re female or female when they’re male or black when they’re white that creates its own set of psychographics, it creates its own set of diversity frustrations, aspirations, attitudes, feelings, and so if your marketing messaging is catering to those frustrations, aspirations, and feelings, you might be missing the shared frustrations, the shared aspirations, the shared feelings among both the minority audience and the majority audience because you’re stepping over those to get to the more stronger emotions that you would identify with a minority audience.
Elizabeth Earin: So and I think I know the answer to this question but what’s the solution?
Steve Robinson: I know we’re huge advocates for as few personas as possible but I think that this is the instance where you need to actually have a second set of personas. I don’t know what do you think?
Elizabeth Earin: Yes and I think the key here is coming back and really looking at what the organization’s objectives are and looking at the organization, the makeup of the organization and having that conversation and acknowledging that there are differences. By creating one majority and one minority specifically in those areas where diversity is something that they’re trying to work on I think that’s the only way they’re going to be able to meet those goals and objectives.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. And then the way that I see us using these is build for the majority audience and have that persona front of mine because you can’t have more one persona front of mine while you’re doing your work, it just doesn’t work, build for the majority audience and then set that persona aside and then pull out your minority persona and then go back through everything you did from the perspective of that minority persona as if you were embodying him or her and then take a look at at the experience that you’re creating and make sure that it is equally or maybe even slightly better for that minority persona along the path but that it’s solving the pain points, it’s meeting the needs, it’s addressing the desires, wants, or frustrations of the majority audience first.
Elizabeth Earin: So, let me ask you this if we – I want to make sure I understand, so we’ll design it to our majority persona and then we’ll come back and we’ll double-check that collateral against our minority persona. Now, if there’s something there that doesn’t jive with our minority persona are you saying that we should revise the collateral or are you saying that we should treat new collateral?
Steve Robinson: Ooh! That’s a great question. I think it depends on your goals and your budget. I think it depends on if you can do it in an authentic way that’s not pandering, then yes, if you have a diversity initiative I think that it makes sense to go ahead and create a second set of collateral if you feel that’s the best course of action and you can’t just go back and revise the initial.
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah. I would actually caution about revising the initial, not saying that it can’t be done but be wary of revising it so much that now you’ve got such a generic message that it’s not actually speaking to anyone because I could see that potentially going – this happening in this scenario.
Steve Robinson: It’s interesting. It almost paints a whole other layer onto the problem because by creating two messages are you losing the opportunity to drive acceptance and push those diversity initiatives a little bit into your majority audience too, right?
Elizabeth Earin: Exactly. And I think though this is just a perfect example of why we need personas because we’re trying to get inside of the heads of such different groups of people and find that message that resonates with them and it’s not as simple as a checkbox. This isn’t one of those decision trees that you just like if it’s yes then you go here and if it’s no you go here, this is where your experience as a marketer is going to come into play and you’re going to test and then use the data you gather to figure out what the right way to go is. For those of you that aren’t watching on video right now I can see Steve’s mind working here. I can see the gears turning that I’ve asked you a question that maybe you hadn’t considered and I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of new ideas that come out of this. So that was fun to watch.
Steve Robinson: Yeah, yeah. So where is this applicable? Because again we don’t want to create more personas than we have to, so we don’t want to be going create minority personas all over the place, so I’ll tell you where I think but I’m curious where do you think this is applicable, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Earin: So, I think when we talk specifically was sort of how this started with a membership organization, I think it’s a great place for it to start but I think there’s other opportunities too. Recruitment marketing I think would be a great example, HR departments are starting to use personas to craft job descriptions and they’re using that to help identify which of those resumes are going to be the best fit for the company and not only that but to use those personas to help figure out what sort of environment do we want to create, what does our culture look like, and how can we use that to pull in the right candidates, to attract the right people. And so in those cases I could see this potentially working because if you’re trying to diversify your workforce you’re going to see some differences in what may be attracting people to that specific job or even your organization.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. I think it also comes into play with existing team members as well, so our existing employees, if you’re doing some employer branding or some facet of your marketing is going to be hitting the audience of your existing employee base and you see this a lot in larger organizations, then obviously diversity is top of mind for your own employees. So, in that case there may be a very good use case for creating a minority persona.
Elizabeth Earin: That makes sense. I have another question that just popped in my head. So when we’re talking about these minority personas that we would be creating are we taking our majority persona and then just tweaking the fears and aspirations section or is this an entirely different persona?
Steve Robinson: Well, I think day in the life is largely going to be the same I think, background is largely going to be the same I think, the key differences are really going to come into play in the psychographics. I think that that’s really where it comes out in fears, wants, desires, needs but certainly I mean it also needs to be accurate. So, if you look at this persona and you say, well, no, it’s actually not like that if you’re a minority in this particular field, then you’d want to change that and I think most of what we’ve been talking about has been B2B but I think there are plenty of B2C use cases as well.
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah. It’s I think it’s just interesting, sorry, my mind’s turning right now. I think it’s interesting too because a lot of times when we’re sitting in these persona development meetings a lot of those discussions get held up by what is their background and some of the color that we’re adding to make them real to us and really the key takeaway here is those psychographics is what we really want to be focusing on to make sure that we’re meeting their needs and we’re talking to them about something that they’ve got an interest in and passion about.
Steve Robinson: And at the same time you really only want to change them when it overshadows the basic psychographics of the majority persona and that’s not going to happen everywhere and it’s not even going to happen all that often I would think but you can’t tell me being a female or minority coal mine worker that you approach work every day exactly the same as your white male counterpart. There is a difference there.
Elizabeth Earin: Well, thank you for that divergence.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. Let’s summarize what we talked about today and the few conclusions we did come to although I think I speak for both of us when I say our heads are still spinning a little bit on this but I think one of the key things is the next time you build out your persona know your numbers and know for sure whether you are even talking about a minority audience in the first place and I threw out a couple of statistics today, we will link to some resources in the show notes, there is a really cool site I stumbled on called datausa.io and then of course the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes all of their stats as well and you can really dive into at least gender and racial diversity and percentages there.
Elizabeth Earin: And that’s a great place to start when you’re just getting started on your persona development and trying to figure that out and compare that to your own audience or customer segments. If your personas also support recruitment like staffing or a membership organization like we discussed today or they overlap with any sort of diversity initiatives then you’re going to want to make sure that you explore that minority persona in addition to your majority persona. It’s always important as Steve mentioned earlier that you are designing your collateral with one specific person in mind and then using that to double-check as you move forward.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. And that’s the key, it’s a double check. So, build with that majority in mind and then come back and check with the minority unless you are specifically building something targeted at that minority audience as you suggested might be valuable in some cases. So with that I want to thank everyone for taking the time to join us today and until next time onward and upward.
Elizabeth Earin: If you haven’t already be sure to subscribe to the podcast on YouTube or your favorite podcast directory. If you want notes and links to resources discussed on the show sign up to get them emailed to you each week at iterativemarketing.net. There, you will also find the iterative marketing blog in our community LinkedIn group where you can share ideas and ask questions of your fellow iterative marketers. You can also follow us on Twitter, our username is @iter8ive or email us at [email protected]. The iterative marketing podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste. Our producer is Heather Ohlman with transcription assistance from Emily Bechtel. Our music is by Seastock Audio music production and sound design. You can check them out at Seastockaudio.com. We will see you next week, until then onward and upward!