At the center of every major advertising campaign you’ve seen or have been impacted by over the last half-century has been audience archetypes or personas. An audience archetype strategy is ubiquitous across the business marketing and tech worlds, but almost nonexistent in nonprofit messaging and marketing strategy. Your target audience should be at the center of your content and engagement strategy, and creating audience archetypes is how you get there.

I’ve often heard people say, When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” I say it all the time when talking content strategy. Marketing celebrity Seth Godin says, “Everyone is not your customer.”

I know when it comes to the nonprofit world, selling and marketing can seem like dirty words. However, what we are really talking about is persuasion— the ability to persuade people to take action through compelling content. That’s all business marketing is… and that is what all of your content should be designed to do.

Finding your audience

Because an audience archetype strategy is rarely used, I often hear the phrases “our supporters,” “our donors,” or “the list.” It’s as if everyone your organization connects to is some monolith. What happens is the content for your website, video, social media, emails, etc. is actually written for no one in particular, or more often than not, your staff… I'm guessing you’ve already persuaded your staff.

Here are a few things to keep front of mind when defining your audience:

  1. Who’s with us? First of all, ask yourself who currently makes up your supporters, donors, your email lists, etc. These are model folks at the core of your content base.
  2. What hard data do you know about your folks? What information do you have in your database about their likes, interests, and behavior? Use this to think about what is likely to resonate with them or people like them.
  3. What soft or qualitative information do you have? What do you and other staffers know about folks in your core buckets like supporters, donors, people on your lists, or however you define your core groups. Are there characteristics that folks in those groups are likely to have? This is core to creating audience archetypes.
  4. What do you know about new audiences? If you need to reach a new audience, what do you know about them? Are there sources you can look to for inspiration? New audiences are often tricker and can take more testing as you see if your assumptions resonate over time.
  5. You’re an outlier… That’s not a question, it’s likely a fact. You are probably informed and bought in on such an extreme level you took the job. Don’t design content for you. Yet, this might be true for some of your most ardent supporters too.

When organizations are thoughtful about who their audiences are and they take the time to think about them, their content almost always sees more engagement. The for-profit world is full of folks testing and refining audiences… it’s literally the backbone of Facebook and other digital marketing operations. You too have the power to be thoughtful, create audience archetypes and use them to drive engagement that leaves a positive impact in the world. Join Candid on May 30 2 pm Eastern Time for my webinar, How to Use Audience Archetypes to Boost Your Fundraising, to learn more about audience archetypes and how to employ them in your fundraising campaigns to drive engagement and donor retention.

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