What is a Persona?
A persona is a fictitious individual that represents the audience for which you are creating content. Your persona could represent a patient, a caregiver, a son/daughter or even a referring doctor.
A persona has a picture, a name and several characteristics that describe that individual’s demographic, healthcare needs and digital literacy.
“Why are personas important,” you ask?
A persona is used to design and validate your content marketing strategy – from decisions on the types of content to develop to the distribution or delivery approach (blog post vs. YouTube Video vs. Facebook post). The persona will allow you to ‘test’ your approach to ensure that you are reaching your intended audience with the right information.
How many Personas are necessary?
This is a great question. Unfortunately, there’s no exact answer, but in general, it’s probably realistic to have 1-3 personas per service line.
The goal is not to create a persona that represents every possible patient or caregiver that you have, but rather to create a single persona that represents a common grouping of patients or caregivers.
Developing a Persona
Persona development can be as elaborate or as simple as you make it. Just remember that a persona is a person (albeit fictitious) so you’ll need to define specific attributes of that person – even though they represent a group. The more specific your persona is, the easier it will be to use that persona to validate your content development and distribution strategy.
For example, if the group that your persona (let’s call him “Jack”) represents is a diabetic population between the ages of 35-55, you’ll want to identify a specific age for your persona within that range. Jack has an age, not an age range.
So, how do we develop a persona? The following 5 steps will walk us through the process.
Step 1: Identify your Community Profiles
The first step to developing a persona is to identify the community profile that the persona will represent. These community profiles are often specific to service lines and are often further sub-divided by age or gender.
For example, if we focus on the diabetic community, we may have 3-4 different community profiles for various age ranges. We may also have a ‘caregiver’ profile that is intimately involved in the health of the diabetic child or the diabetic elder.
Hence, for the diabetic population, you may end up with 4-5 specific personas.
Step 2: Define Basic Demographic Information
Once you’ve identified your community profiles, create your fictitious person. Start with the basicdemographic information - their name, picture, age, marital status, income, health status, etc.
We’d recommend that you use a single sheet of paper to describe your persona as that will be easy for you and your team to reference downstream.
Step 3: Define their typical Healthcare Journey
You’ll also want to define your persona’s healthcare situation. How often do they visit the hospital or clinic? Are their visits planned/scheduled, or are they emergency or urgent care visits?
When the persona has a healthcare goal or challenge, what steps (journey) do they take to accomplishing that goal or to solving that challenge? We refer to these steps as their healthcare journey.
For example, if the persona is faced with a sudden lack of appetite, what steps do they take to understand the problem? Do they call the nurse line? Do they perform research online? Do they schedule a visit with their PCP? Do they look for a specialist?
The steps that they take becomes their healthcare journey.
Step 4: Identify their Needs and Frustrations
It’s critical to define the persona’s healthcare needs and frustrations. Are they are looking for information online and can’t find it? What types of information are they looking for? What questions do they ask the nurse line or while visiting with the doctor?
By identifying the persona’s needs and frustrations, you’ll be able to quickly determine the types of content or information that you’ll want to make available for that persona.
Step 5: Identify the Persona’s Digital Literacy
Lastly, even though you may know the type of information your persona desires, you may not know how to deliver it to them – at least not until you know their typical digital patterns or preferences.
Does your persona search for information online? Do they use Twitter? Do they use LinkedIn?
Knowing their digital literacy (relative to healthcare information and in general) will help in determining how to get your accurate, useful healthcare information to them – it will help in designing your distribution strategy.
For more information on what tools can be used to distribute different healthcare information, please reference our infographic: How to Choose the Best Tool for the Job.
Personas are not only valuable when deciding “what” information to publish and “where” to publish, but they are also a great litmus check. They can be used to validate (or invalidate) a particular approach.
If someone is proposing that you develop a specific video, for example, you can ask, “Would Jack (one of your personas) benefit from that video?” “Will Jack be looking for that information?” “Is video the right format for Jack to consume that information?” And so-on.
You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can fine tune your content strategy to meet the specific needs of your personas and hence the community that you intend to serve.
Your Personas will help to keep your content useful, relevant, and focused.
For more information on how to develop healthcare personas, please download our FREE Persona Workbook and Persona Template.