What is a persona, and why does it matter for content creators?
Last Updated Jun 19, 2023
José M. Duque
Table of Contents
The other day, a colleague sent me an article about the ten most recognizable brands in the world. Many of them have consistent and distinctive brand identities (think Apple’s bitten-apple logo or McDonald’s ubiquitous golden arches) that have helped them become household names across the globe. But good branding involves more than just a snazzy logo; it also reflects an organization’s culture and values as well. I suspect many of us tend to assume that branding is only something only corporations and cattle need to worry about, but savvy content creators know how to develop a persona that can help convey their values and their authority.
What is a persona, and how is it different from reputation?
In this context, a persona is essentially the public identity that a person constructs for themselves. It’s distinct from a reputation, which is how others think of a person. Put another way, our persona is something we actively create, while our reputation is something that the rest of the world creates for us. Most of us try to shape our personas in some way, whether they’re an influencer applying flattering filters to their Instagram photos to hide the odd blemish or a young Joan Crawford working to rise above her limited formal schooling by raiding the dictionary each morning for new words. We craft our personas in many different ways, from the language we use to the photos we post. But while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to put your best foot forward, the most successful personas are those that are grounded in reality. We’ve all seen instances where a politician has said or done something questionable in the name of appearing relatable, like when Hillary Clinton attempted the Whip and the Nae Nae on Ellen. You’re not helping yourself if people think they’re being patronized and/or duped.
Why do personas matter for content creators?
Personas are important for content creators because they fulfill many of the same roles that brands do for companies or institutions. They are the image of ourselves that we present to others. Depending on how we’ve constructed them, they can either build us up or tear us down.
Basic building blocks of a persona
Marketers will tell you that brands are made up of many different components such as brand definition, brand values, and brand identity that ultimately can be reduced to four key facets: visual identity, values, messaging, and mission. They’re useful for persona-building, too.
Visual identity. Ideally, your content should have a consistent look. Having a logo is one way to achieve this, but logos aren’t the be-all and end-all of visual identity. Here at Newstex, for example, we consistently use the colors blue and orange across our site. We also use AI-generated art to illustrate many of our posts. This provides our site with a distinctive style.
Values. These are the principles/standards that you adhere to. For example, CNET has an entire page dedicated to explaining how they test products and services. This kind of transparency is great for building trust.
Messaging. This refers to the ways in which you communicate. Words matter, and your choices can reveal a lot about you. For example, if you’re trying to position yourself as an authority on the British constitution, you probably shouldn’t refer to the Princess of Wales as ‘Princess Kate.’ Make sure you’re using words that are consistent with the feeling you’re hoping to convey–using words like fun, exciting, and amazing can make you seem sociable and outgoing, while more complex words such as leitmotif and prolocutor can make you come across as erudite or refined.
Mission. Every creator has a mission, even if they’re not consciously aware of it. In the corporate world, marketers often speak of ‘brand purpose.’ As Raphael Bemporad of BBMG explains, “[b]rand purpose lives at the intersection of a company’s authentic reason for being and the unmet human needs that it can uniquely fulfill in the marketplace and the world. Revealing this harmonic is the key to defining your north star.” For a content creator, it can be helpful to think of it this way: what are you trying to do for your audience? Educate them? Entertain them? Whatever it is, that’s the basis for your mission.
There won’t necessarily be a ‘right’ answer with these things, and what works for one content creator won’t necessarily work for another. In the end, the most important thing is that you’re consistent and authentic. You also want to be distinctive, too. You can spend $10,000 on a logo but it’s not going to matter much if no one can remember it.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that your persona isn’t only affected by the content you curate. In today’s always-online-world, everything you do on the Internet has the potential to shape your persona, for good or ill. A single offensive tweet or a chance argument with a passerby can torpedo even the most carefully constructed persona.
Enhancing your persona with authoritative content
‘Authoritative content’ is written by a subject-matter expert and informs the reader with the right level of detail. While many different types of content creators can benefit from the use of authoritative content, it’s particularly important for those who are attempting to position themselves as thought leaders. It should also be created for people first and foremost, and it should align with your mission.
Alexandra Rynne of LinkedIn, offers some good advice for devising a content strategy for thought-leadership. In essence, you should decide what makes your perspective unique and valuable and then figure out the best way to reach your desired audience(s). It’s okay to have a niche, and you don’t need to try to be omnipresent. If, for example, you’re a lawyer looking to share your knowledge of the Church of England’s faculty jurisdiction, you’ll probably want to focus your efforts on producing long-form content rather than, say, TikTok videos. Ultimately, successful thought leaders are the ones who go where their readers are and answer the questions they’re likely to have.
Your persona should work as hard as you do
Branding isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies. Every content creator should put thought into their persona and make sure it reinforces the image they’re hoping to convey. This means paying careful attention to factors such as visual identity, values, and messaging, and it means being consistent. Your persona should also adhere to your mission, whatever that may be. You also want to make sure it’s grounded in reality, lest you alienate readers by appearing insincere. Incorporating authoritative content can help you hone your persona by reinforcing the idea that you’re a source of insight and inspiration.
We’re always on the lookout for new creators of authoritative content. If you’d like us to consider your content for syndication, let us know!
About the author,
José M. Duque
Jose M. Duque, a long-time blogger, is passionate about how authoritative content written for humans—not machines—can maximize your publication's reach, brand, and revenue.