Persona 1: Lisa, 22. Loves make-up, prosecco and Kim Kardashian.
Persona 2: Jackie, 58. Is married, retired, loves baking and Countryfile.
I'm sure that each of these underdeveloped persona profiles have immediately conjured up an image in your head, and it's likely that you'll also be a little annoyed at how stereotypical these are. They're two-dimensional, cliched and far too general for a brand to tailor a strategy towards.
[Image credit: iStock/gpointstudio]
Yet this is what many brands do. As the typical Cosmo and Good Housekeeping reader respectively, you might think you know exactly the kind of content that Lisa and Jackie want to consume.
But you have to remember that they're people. Their profiles aren't as straightforward as that. Kim Kardashian might be Lisa's idol, but she might also have a secret crush on Countryfile host Matt Baker. And Jackie might love prosecco just as much as she loves baking, making them both much more complex personas than your bog-standard 'woman aged 30'. It's also likely that both will be interested in what's in the national news each day - but where can they get their content needs met?
Standard Issue and the perfect female persona
Standard Issue, that's where. Launched by comedian Sarah Millican in 2014, this online magazine offers a fresh corner of the internet for women of all ages, who are interested in pretty much everything.
In an interview with north-east regional publication the Chronicle, Millican explained that she felt women's magazines didn't really speak to her on a level that she could relate to. After speaking to other women, she realised many of her friends felt the same, which spurred her on to launch Standard Issue.
Describing the publication, she said: "It's free, online only and is a hive of funny, smart women covering all the subjects that interest women. So that's, you know, everything."
Here, I think Millican has hit the nail on the head. Women are not two-dimensional. They don't all want to read about the latest 'bikini diet' or what so-and-so from Coronation Street has been spotted wearing on a night out.
Sometimes they want to read about why car boot sales are great, the latest thing that Donald Trump has said or what it's really like living with cancer. As you can tell from these topics, Standard Issue also manages to strike a perfect balance between humorous and serious content - something else your content strategy should bear in mind.
While your persona-targeted content strategy will need to feature specific types of content depending on your user journey and the steps of the buyer cycle your company is targeting, Standard Issue shows that quirky, one-off pieces or articles commenting on the latest news can complement a wider strategy well, making your website their go-to place for all kinds of content.
By bearing in mind that your audience is real, diverse and multi-dimensional, you can keep them engaged for longer and make sure they keep coming back to your site.
How (not) to cover news
Take for example the news earlier this month that Theresa May was set to become the UK's second ever female prime minister - a huge story for the whole of the media, and a key subject for women's magazines to approach.
I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how Cosmo, Good Housekeeping and Standard Issue each reported this story, and what we can learn from each about targeting rounded female personas.
[Image credit: iStock/fastphotographic]
After loading up the Cosmo website homepage, I struggle to find any mention of Mrs May whatsoever, despite the fact this will be the first female prime minister many of the publication's readers have lived through. The top story was instead about 'Hiddleswift', followed by articles on women's health and Kylie Jenner's new lip gloss range.
I am more than three-quarters of the way down the page before I find an article on Theresa May. I'm disappointed to see that halfway down the article is a hairspray advert - can we not even deliver this huge news story without dumbing it down and reminding the reader they are a young, make-up loving stereotype?
Standard Issue, however, didn't just report on the news that Theresa May was the only candidate in the running for PM, but linked the story to its strategy of covering topical women's issues, with an analysis of comments made during the leadership campaign regarding motherhood, presenting the story to the reader, but making it relevant to them.
Cosmo may have tried this by inserting that hairspray ad, but it didn't quite work. Yet Standard Issue shows how you can keep your website refreshed with the latest content while linking it back to your audience. Remember that they're real people and they will want this news!
Meanwhile, a quick glance at the Good Housekeeping website revealed that the top three news stories on the day after a member of the typical readership's generation was to lead the country for the foreseeable future were about Benedict Cumberbatch, the Spice Girls and bottle-feeding babies.
Apparently middle-aged women aren't interested in politics either? Of course they are, so there should be content for them, and it should be easy for them to find.
Despite the magazines being keen to tell us that 'women want it all', when it comes to content, they're not giving us 'it all', even though that's what we want.
3 takeaways for creating a female persona
- Remember your personas are real people with real, diverse interests.
- It's not specific enough to just make your persona female. You need to think about her age, interests, the kind of content she'd like to read, what she does in her spare time etc. Give her a name and build a character profile to make her seem more real. You could even draw a picture of her and keep it close by when writing your content so you don't forget her.
- Don't be afraid to cover a big news story even if it doesn't link directly to your other content. If you get the angle right, your persona will be interested anyway, and it helps you to build authority and thought leadership for your brand.