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  • Leon de Stadler

Getting some personality into the text

Creating personas in your communication

Even though your communication may be addressed to a large number of people and not an audience of only one, they are still real people with attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, feelings and all the other things that make up the human state. They each have a personality, and these personalities are like fingerprints - they all differ.

And of course, then there is you, the writer. Also a human being with your own attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, feelings, etc. And you too have a personality.

How to accommodate all these personalities, even address them, that is the question. The answer lies in the development and management of so-called writer- and reader-personas as part of your communication. "Personas are not real people, but they represent them throughout the process. They are hypothetical archetypes of actual users. Although they are imaginary, they are defined with significant rigor and precision. Actually, we don't so much 'make up' our personas as discover them as a by-product of the investigation process." (Coney and Steehouder 2000: 14)

So, to make it simple: We create a persona for ourselves and our readers, and even though these personas may not be real, they should be made up in such a way that the reader feels comfortable to identify with the persona.Imagine the following example: You have to develop a marketing document selling educational toys and games. You know your primary audience would probably be the parents of the kids using these games and toys. What do you know about this particular audience? Well, for sure that they are constantly concerned about their children's education. I can then imagine you using a sentence like "We know as a parent you are constantly concerned about the education of your child ...". This would be an example of a "created" reader-persona - the concerned parent. Or "We share your concern for your child's education and would like to help", an example of a writer-persona - the interested, sympathetic helper.

Research tells us that these personas can enhance persuasive communication by "humanising" the text, in so doing drawing the reader into the text, making him or her feel part of the issue discussed. This has a stimulating effect that improves the chances that your reader will truly engage with the text.

Have fun with this part of your creative exercise!

Want to know more about this topic?

  • Contact me at

  • Read more about the research that we did a number of years ago (see ).

  • Read the article by Mary Coney and Michaël Steehouder (Coney, Mary & Michaël Steehouder. 2000. Role playing on the web. Guidelines for designing and evaluating personas online. Technical Communication 47, 327-340). Even though this article focused on website design, the design of effective personas is relevant to other media as well.


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