A short while ago, I attended a Content Strategy event: nine people each gave a five minute talk – an intense format that can throw up some real gems. On this occasion, the gem came from Chris Atherton (@finiteattention), and is a concept I can only describe as the principle of Bridging Content.
The background to Chris’ presentation: design agency Numiko was selected by the UK government’s Time to Change initiative to build a digital engagement strategy aimed at younger people. Considerable research was done with the target audience: both with and without direct exposure to mental illness and its impact. According to Chris, this resulted in thirteen – yes, 13 – personae.
That is a lot by anybody’s counting, but this was only the start. The key to the conceptual breakthrough of Bridging Content was mapping those 13 personae onto a graph – in this case a two-dimensional arrangement with involvement on one axis, and personal experience/knowledge on the other – and adding in the transitions that could be engineered between personae: taking those with no experience or understanding, and moving them up and across the graph.
Suddenly, the persona model starts looking far more interesting. We are not looking at types of users and identifying the content that will manipulate them into action where they are now: we are looking at those transitions between persona-states and creating content to migrate the user. Content now has an active purpose: teach and evolve; engagement comes from within.
This model is easy to understand in an advocacy-type campaign, where the aim is to get more people actively supporting and evangelising. It applies just as well to commercial sites, where users are just browsing, discovering or impatient to purchase. Provide the content that moves them away from the persona-state they are occupying, towards one closer to where you want them to be. You can’t force them down the desired route, but you can offer the opportunity and encouragement for them to move to a place where they will choose to engage with you.
Horse to Water, by Chris Shipton – @ChrisShipton
Numiko Time to Change article