Using personas to understand internal stakeholders

By Posted in - Internal Communication & Personas & Stakeholder engagement on May 11th, 2018 1 Comments

When developing a new strategy or starting a new project, consulting with internal stakeholders is a stage that can often be overlooked. But having key stakeholders onboard with the work you have planned is essential – and it could come back to bite you in the butt if you don’t do it!

In this blog post, I will explain how to design stakeholder personas, and share how this can help you to engage fully with the process of stakeholder consultation.

What are stakeholder personas?

I often help our clients develop personas for the audiences they plan to target with their communications. Personas are a representation of an audience which aid in the planning and development of communications. They ensure that your plan takes into account what these audiences might be thinking, feeling, seeing and doing, as well as how they like to communicate.

Personas can also be used to improve your internal communications. Here, we’re talking about the moments when your audience is your key stakeholders. How are you going to persuade them to support, or sign off on, your project? Developing a persona may be the first step to success.

What are the benefits of stakeholder personas?

Designing stakeholder personas might sound like an awful lot of effort, but it really is worth it. The process:

– Encourages you to develop long-term relationships with stakeholders
– Allows you to really get to know your stakeholders and build up a detailed picture of the way they work
– Gives new (and existing) staff a great resource to get to know the main concerns of your key stakeholders
– Will help you to articulate the key features of your workplace culture and the working practices of your stakeholders
– Helps you to communicate with them in an appropriate and convincing way

All of this is essential to secure their buy-in for new projects and their support for ongoing work.

Stakeholders are an audience like anyone else and they tend to be a large audience, especially in universities. If you’re considering personas for other audience types, you should be considering them for stakeholders too.

Creating your stakeholder personas

If you’ve never developed a persona before, you might want to read our blog post first to decide what type of personas will be most suitable for you. Do you want different personas for different roles within the organisation – such as managers, senior leaders and academics – or do you want to group people instead by their motivations – brand champions, budget holders, technophobes, etc?

You and your team will already have experience of dealing with stakeholders on a regular basis. Work collaboratively with your team to start developing the personas. You could run a discovery workshop, allowing everyone to get together and share their experiences of working with different types of stakeholders. Or you could create a collaborative document and ask your team members to contribute their thoughts.

If you’ve got a large enough pool of stakeholders at your institution, you’ll be able to send out a survey which will allow you to build your personas with more accurate quantitative research.

If you don’t have the time or the resource to conduct this in-house, you could use an agency to gather all of the information that would need. At Pickle Jar Communications, we’re experts when it comes to understanding audiences, and we regularly design new techniques for gathering insights from audiences, including stakeholders. Let us know if you need some help.

What to include

There are four key areas that you should consider when developing your personas. However, we know that each institution is different, so you might want to add some additional areas too.

1. Core information

Start your persona, you will need to set the scene. Who are they and what do we know about their background? We’ve got a whole separate blog post with some ideas about what to include in this section.

2. Motivations

When thinking about your stakeholders, remember that your project is probably not their number priority. They will have their own projects, interests and goals that they’re working towards. Have a think about their job role – what might be important to them and what might they be working towards?

3. Barriers

What do your stakeholders have going on that might prevent from supporting you in moving on with your project? Has there been anything which they used as an excuse to not move something forward before?

4. Communication preferences

If a certain stakeholder would rather you picked up the phone for a discussion, you wouldn’t send them a lengthy email. But unless you do some research and understand their communications preferences, you might be approaching them in the wrong way and slowing down the whole process.

Also, think about when you should be communicating with them. Would they prefer to see an early view of a brief before it’s fully developed? Are they expecting regular communications about the project’s progression?

It may take a little extra time or resource to build a set of stakeholder personas in the short term, but they could lead you to much smoother running projects in the long term.

If you’d like some help building your own stakeholder personas, please drop us a message. Pickle Jar Communications’ CEO, Tracy Playle, will also be discussing stakeholders in a free GatherContent webinar later this month. Book your seat now


Image by WOCinTech Chat / CC BY 2.0

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