Is This You? (Reader Persona Design: An Example)

    February 16, 2005

Do you work in a medium-to-large organization whose web content you feel could be put to better use? If so, you’re my target reader.

In 1996, I started this weekly opinion piece with the objective of helping to build my personal brand name. I wanted to become known as an expert in web content so that I could make a good living from this area.

It took me time to refine who my reader persona was. I quickly realized that small organizations would rarely have the budget to hire someone like me, so I concentrated on issues relating to medium-to-large organizations.

I began to understand that many, though by no means all, IT people would not relate to my content first, technology second approach. That’s why, in my head, as I write this, I see a communications or marketing person.

I found that there are two broad camps in marketing: the Flash brigade, and those who see content as a day-to-day process based largely around well-written, punchy text. I don’t write for the Flash brigade (though Flash, like all tools, can be useful when properly applied).

Over the years, I have noticed that the web professional gender balance has shifted significantly. Five years ago, the majority of my audience would have been men. Now, I find that, in some markets, up to 70 percent are women. So, the communications/marketing person I see in my head is a woman. However, if you observe my writing, you will probably notice that I rarely specify gender.

I work in many countries, though two of my primary markets are the United States and the UK, so I keep the specific needs of those markets in mind as I write. However, I try not to use phrases that are unique to a particular country. I also try my best not to write anything that would inadvertently offend any culture.

I do a lot of work for commercial business, but I also spend a substantial amount of my time with governments and universities. Because of this, I’m careful of the use of words such as “customers”. I’ve found that when some people in government, for example, hear the word “customer” they think, ‘that’s not for me,’ as “citizen” would be their preferred word. So, I often use neutral words like “reader”.

I help clients with both intranets and public websites. While I do write pieces focused specifically on intranets and public websites, I strive to make sure that I have a good balance. I seek to publish a regular stream of general web content articles that are relevant both for intranet and public website managers.

Are you my perfect reader? Have you been saying the things I’ve been saying within your organization, but you need more help to convince the right people? Have you got a budget? Or maybe you’re not ready for that just now. What you would like to do is go to a really useful workshop on web content. I can help you.

For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern

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