A few weeks ago, I was at the Podcast Movement conference in Denver, where I had the chance to catch up with my friend Shannon Henandez, who hosts the evening shift on KUPD in Phoenix. We got to talking about AI, and Shannon suggested that I try using ChatGPT to create personas.
Personas have been a useful tool for helping radio programmers understand their audiences for a long time. When I programmed WBRU in Providence, personas helped my airstaff envision our listeners. We nicknamed our persona “Mr. BRU,” and you would frequently hear staff members asking, “What would Mr. BRU think about this promotion?” or “What would Mr. BRU think about this song?” Personas help broadcasters visualize and cater to their audience.
For those who are unfamiliar, a personas is…. well, let's ask ChatGPT:
“An audience persona, also known as a listener persona in the context of radio stations, is a fictional representation of a radio station's ideal or target audience member. It is a detailed and semi-fictional character profile that helps radio stations better understand and connect with their listeners. Creating audience personas is a common practice in marketing and media industries, including radio, to tailor content and strategies to the specific needs, preferences, and behaviors of their audience. Here's how it can be useful for radio stations:
- Audience Understanding: By creating personas, radio stations gain a deeper understanding of who their listeners are. This goes beyond demographic information (age, gender, location) and delves into psychographic details such as interests, values, lifestyles, and preferences. This understanding helps the station create content that resonates with its audience.
- Content Customization: Knowing your audience personas enables radio stations to tailor their content to match the interests and preferences of different segments of their listenership. For example, if one persona represents a younger audience interested in pop music, the station can schedule more pop music shows during times when this persona is likely to be tuning in.
- Program Development: Persona development can guide the creation of new radio programs or the adjustment of existing ones. Stations can design shows, topics, and formats that cater to the tastes and needs of specific personas. For instance, if one persona represents sports enthusiasts, the station might introduce a dedicated sports talk show.
- Marketing and Promotion: Persona profiles help radio stations refine their marketing and promotional efforts. They can target advertising campaigns, events, and promotions more effectively by knowing which personas are most likely to respond positively.
- Branding and Voice: Radio stations can use personas to shape their overall brand and on-air personality. The tone, style, and language used by DJs and hosts can be aligned with the preferences of the target personas, creating a stronger connection with listeners.
- Audience Engagement: When radio stations understand the personas of their audience, they can foster deeper engagement. This might involve interacting with listeners on social media, conducting surveys, or organizing events that resonate with the interests of specific personas.
- Audience Growth: By catering to the preferences of different personas, radio stations can potentially attract new listeners who align with these personas. This can lead to audience growth and increased market share.
To create audience personas, radio stations typically conduct research, surveys, and data analysis to gather insights about their listeners. They can also draw from their existing audience data, such as listener feedback, social media interactions, and ratings. Once personas are developed, they serve as valuable reference points for decision-making across the station, helping ensure that content and strategies align with the needs and interests of their audience.”
It's nice to see that ChatGPT knows that the proper way to create personas is to conduct research, preferably with the help of a company that has 40 years of experience in doing such things (*ahem*). But Shannon is right, you can use ChatGPT to create quick, cheap, easy personas if you're not quite ready to call in the professionals.
Public Radio Listener Profile
For example, I gave ChatGPT the following prompt:
Create a persona profile for a public radio listener in Detroit. What demographic and psychographic characteristics do they have? What do they see as the value or benefit of listening to public radio? What do they dislike about public radio? What would thy like to hear more or less of on public radio?
Within seconds, ChatGPT spit out the following:
Persona Profile: Public Radio Enthusiast in Detroit
Name: Sarah Davis
- Age: 42
- Gender: Female
- Marital Status: Married
- Occupation: Marketing Manager
- Education: Bachelor's Degree in Communication
- Income: Middle-class
- Residence: Suburban Detroit, Michigan
- Ethnicity: Caucasian
- Political Leanings: Moderate, socially progressive
- Interests: Literature, local community events, environmental sustainability, classical music, and indie films
- Hobbies: Gardening, volunteering at a local animal shelter, attending art exhibitions
- Media Consumption Habits: Prefers reading newspapers and magazines, avid consumer of documentaries and podcasts
- Technology Use: Comfortable with smartphones, tablets, and social media, but values offline experiences
Value and Benefit of Listening to Public Radio:
Sarah sees several key values in listening to public radio:
- In-Depth Reporting: She appreciates the thorough and unbiased reporting on public radio, which helps her stay informed about local and global issues.
- Diverse Perspectives: Sarah values the diversity of voices and perspectives offered on public radio programs. She believes it enriches her understanding of complex issues.
- Cultural Enrichment: Public radio exposes her to a wide range of cultural content, from classical music to literary discussions. This aligns with her interests and broadens her horizons.
- Local Focus: She appreciates the emphasis on local news and stories, as it keeps her connected to her community.
- Ad-free Experience: Sarah enjoys the commercial-free environment of public radio, which she finds a refreshing break from the constant barrage of ads on commercial stations.
Dislikes About Public Radio:
- Pledge Drives: She dislikes the frequency of pledge drives and wishes there were alternative funding models that didn't interrupt programming as much.
- Limited Live Music: As a fan of live classical music, she sometimes wishes there were more live performances on public radio.
Preferences for Public Radio Content:
- More Local Features: Sarah would like to hear more local human-interest stories, highlighting the achievements and challenges of people in Detroit.
- Environmental Coverage: Given her interest in sustainability, she would like more in-depth coverage of local environmental issues and solutions.
- Diverse Cultural Programming: She'd appreciate a broader range of cultural programming, including discussions on local art exhibitions and emerging artists.
- Youth Engagement: Sarah believes public radio should engage with younger audiences by creating content that is relevant to their interests and concerns.
- Reduced Pledge Drive Interruptions: While she understands the necessity of funding, she wishes that pledge drives were shorter and less frequent.
Sarah Davis is a dedicated public radio listener who values the depth, diversity, and cultural enrichment it provides. Her feedback suggests that while she appreciates the content, she'd like some improvements in the funding model and more localized and culturally diverse programming.
That's not bad. I have some minor quibbles. For example, I suspect that the average age of public radio listener in Detroit is much older than 42.
This persona also presumes Sarah is a classical music listener, even though classical music is played on only one of the three public radio stations that can be heard in Detroit. This suggest that ChatGPT isn't picking up on market-specific details.
You also have to wonder what ChatGPT leaves out that proper research might catch. For example, there's no mention of the automotive industry, even though it employs a significant percentage of metro Detroit households, and a UAW strike has just begun. I can't help but wonder if Sarah would be very interested in hearing more about what's happening with the auto industry because it might affect people whe knows directly.
While ChatGPT's persona profile does mention “diversity,” it's subtle when it comes to race and socioeconomic factors. These factors can be a big deal for programmers trying to maximize listenership and the donor base at the same time in a market like Detroit, where the city's population is overwhelmingly Black and the affluent suburbs are overwhelmingly not. (There's a reason why Eminem named his move 8 Mile, after the street that divides Detroit from the suburbs.) You can't help but wonder if personas created by professional researchers would grapple with these issues more directly and with more specificity.
Nonetheless, for free, it ain't bad.
Let's try another…
Classic Rock Listener Profile
Here's the prompt I gave to ChatGPT:
Create a persona profile for a classic rock radio listener in San Francisco. What demographic and psychographic characteristics do they have? What do they see as the value or benefit of listening to terrestiral radio? What do they dislike about their local classic rock radio station? What other services do they use to listen to classic rock? How do those other services compare?
Here's ChatGPT's output:
Persona Profile: Classic Rock Radio Listener in San Francisco
Name: John ClassicRock
- Age: 50-65 years old
- Gender: Male
- Marital Status: Married
- Education: High school or some college education
- Occupation: Blue-collar worker or small business owner
- Income Level: Middle-class
- Lifestyle: John is a laid-back individual who enjoys a slower pace of life, often spending weekends with his family or working on DIY projects around the house.
- Music Preference: He has a deep love for classic rock music from the 1960s to the 1980s, with bands like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd being some of his favorites.
- Nostalgia: John views classic rock as the soundtrack of his youth, and it holds a special place in his heart. He appreciates the nostalgia associated with this genre.
- Technological Comfort: While he is not opposed to technology, John prefers traditional methods of entertainment and is not heavily reliant on digital platforms for music.
Value of Listening to Terrestrial Radio:
- Local Connection: John values the sense of local community and connection that terrestrial radio provides. He enjoys hearing local news, traffic updates, and events specific to San Francisco.
- Familiarity: He appreciates the consistency and predictability of classic rock radio stations. It's like revisiting an old friend every time he tunes in.
Discovering Hidden Gems: John likes the element of surprise and discovering lesser-known classic rock tracks that he might not have encountered otherwise.
Dislikes About the Local Classic Rock Radio Station:
- Repetition: John often finds that the station tends to play the same songs on heavy rotation, which can get monotonous over time.
- Commercials: He dislikes the frequency and duration of commercials on the station, feeling that it disrupts the flow of the music.
- Lack of Variety: While he appreciates the classics, John wishes the station would explore deeper cuts and more variety within the classic rock genre.
Other Services for Listening to Classic Rock:
- Vinyl Records: John still owns a collection of vinyl records from his younger days and enjoys the tactile experience of playing them on his turntable.
- CD Player: He also has a collection of classic rock CDs that he plays in his car and at home.
- Streaming Services: Occasionally, John uses streaming services like Spotify when he wants to explore new classic rock playlists or listen to a specific song on-demand.
Comparison of Other Services:
- Vinyl and CD Players: These formats provide a tangible and nostalgic experience for John, but they lack the convenience and variety of digital platforms. However, he appreciates the warmth of analog sound.
- Streaming Services: While he acknowledges the convenience and vast catalog of songs available on streaming platforms, he sometimes finds them overwhelming and prefers the curated playlists and DJ selections offered by traditional radio.
In summary, John ClassicRock is a classic rock enthusiast who values the local connection and familiarity offered by terrestrial radio, despite its drawbacks. He relies on traditional music formats like vinyl and CDs for their nostalgia factor and enjoys the occasional use of streaming services for variety. John is a representation of the segment of classic rock fans who cherish the authenticity and community aspects of radio while still embracing some aspects of digital music consumption.
Profile of a Potential Public Radio Listener
Let's try to create a persona profile for somebody who's not a public radio listener, but could be converted. Here's the prompt I gave to ChatGPT:
Create a persona of somebody who doesn't currently listen to public radio in Detroit but could be won over as an audience member. Why don't they currently listen to public radio? What are they listening to instead? What would it take to get them to listen to public radio?
Here's ChatGPT's response:
Persona Profile: Potential Public Radio Listener in Detroit
Name: Alex Rodriguez
- Age: 28
- Gender: Non-binary
- Marital Status: Single
- Occupation: Graphic Designer
- Education: Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design
- Income: Lower-middle-class
- Residence: Urban Detroit, Michigan
- Ethnicity: Latinx
Why They Don't Currently Listen to Public Radio:
- Lack of Awareness: Alex is not aware of the existence of public radio in Detroit or its programming. They have never been exposed to it and don't know what it offers.
- Perceived Inaccessibility: They assume public radio might be too formal, serious, or inaccessible for their taste. Alex is under the impression that it caters to an older, more conservative audience.
- Media Habits: Alex primarily consumes news and entertainment through online platforms, streaming services, and social media. They rarely engage with traditional radio.
- Limited Exposure: Their social circle and online communities rarely discuss or promote public radio, so there's been little motivation or opportunity to explore it.
What They Are Listening to Instead:
- Streaming Services: Alex frequently listens to music and podcasts on streaming platforms. They enjoy curated playlists and personalized content.
- Online News Sources: They get their news primarily from online sources, following independent news websites and social media accounts that align with their interests.
- Podcasts: Alex is an avid podcast listener, preferring content related to pop culture, LGBTQ+ issues, and design.
- Community Radio: Occasionally, they tune in to a local community radio station that plays independent music and features local artists.
What It Would Take to Get Them to Listen to Public Radio:
- Content Discovery: Alex needs to discover public radio content that aligns with their interests. This could be achieved through recommendations on social media, podcasts, or articles that highlight engaging public radio programs.
- Relevance to Their Interests: Public radio stations in Detroit should create content that resonates with Alex's interests, such as design, LGBTQ+ issues, and urban culture. Featuring local artists and musicians could also pique their curiosity.
- Digital Accessibility: Public radio stations should improve their digital presence, offering live streaming, on-demand content, and podcast versions of their programs. A user-friendly mobile app could make access more convenient.
- Engagement with Underrepresented Voices: Showcasing diverse voices and perspectives, particularly from the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities, could demonstrate that public radio is inclusive and relevant to Alex.
- Community Engagement: Hosting events, discussions, or local initiatives that align with Alex's values and interests could provide opportunities for them to engage with public radio in a meaningful way.
- Youth Outreach: Collaborating with local universities, art schools, and youth organizations to promote public radio and engage with younger, more digitally-focused audiences like Alex.
To win over Alex as a public radio listener, it's crucial to break down the perception of inaccessibility, provide content that resonates with their interests, and make public radio more digitally accessible and engaging. Building awareness and relevance are key steps in converting them into an enthusiastic public radio audience member.
Interestingly, this profile does address the racial and economic differences between public radio listeners and non-listeners in Detroit. Of course, a programmer would need to be savvy enough to pick up on it and know what to do with that information.
Profile of a Potential Radio Advertiser
On the revenue side of the building, you can also use ChatGPT to create profiles. For example, public radio and Christian stations create profiles of a donor. Commercial radio can create profiles of potential advertisers. Here's another prompt I gave to ChatGPT:
Create a persona profile for a potential radio advertising client that is the marketing director for a group of auto dealerships in Atlanta, Georgia. What are their biggest issues in their roles as a marketing director? What metrics are used to measure their success? Where might they spend their advertising budget and why? What do they see as the benefits of advertising on the radio? What do they see as the negatives of advertising on the radio?
Here's the output:
Persona Profile: Marketing Director for Auto Dealerships in Atlanta, Georgia
Name: Sarah Mitchell
Background: Sarah Mitchell is a seasoned marketing professional with over 10 years of experience in the automotive industry. She currently holds the position of Marketing Director for a prominent group of auto dealerships based in Atlanta, Georgia. Her responsibilities encompass developing and executing comprehensive marketing strategies to drive traffic and sales for the dealership group.
Biggest Issues in Role:
- Competitive Market: Sarah faces stiff competition from other auto dealerships in Atlanta, making it challenging to stand out in a crowded market.
- Seasonal Fluctuations: The automotive industry experiences seasonal fluctuations, and Sarah must navigate the ebbs and flows in demand throughout the year.
- Digital Transformation: Keeping up with the latest digital marketing trends and technologies is a constant challenge, as consumer behavior shifts towards online research and purchasing.
- Managing Multiple Brands: The dealership group represents multiple car brands, each with its unique audience and marketing requirements, which can be overwhelming to manage effectively.
Metrics for Measuring Success:
- Sales Conversion Rates: Sarah closely monitors the conversion rates of leads into actual vehicle sales, tracking which marketing channels are driving the most conversions.
- Website Traffic and Engagement: She pays attention to website traffic, bounce rates, and user engagement metrics to gauge the effectiveness of online marketing efforts.
- Customer Retention: Retaining existing customers and fostering brand loyalty is critical. She measures customer satisfaction, repeat purchases, and referral rates.
- Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA): Sarah evaluates the cost efficiency of marketing campaigns by calculating the CPA for each channel, helping to optimize the advertising budget.
- Market Share: Monitoring the dealership group's market share in Atlanta is essential for assessing overall performance in a competitive landscape.
Advertising Budget Allocation:
- Digital Advertising: A significant portion of the budget goes to digital advertising, including pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media advertising. This is driven by the growing trend of online research and purchasing in the automotive industry.
- Radio Advertising: Sarah allocates a portion of the budget to radio advertising, recognizing the benefits of radio in reaching a broad and local audience, especially for promoting special events, sales, and brand awareness.
- Television Advertising: Television ads are used for larger branding campaigns and special events due to their visual impact.
- Direct Mail and Print Advertising: Some budget is dedicated to direct mail and print materials, targeting specific demographics who may still respond well to traditional advertising.
- Event Sponsorships: The dealership group sponsors local events and sports teams to increase brand visibility within the community.
Benefits of Radio Advertising:
- Local Reach: Radio offers a local reach, helping the dealerships connect with their Atlanta-based audience effectively.
- Affordability: Compared to some other advertising channels, radio advertising can be cost-effective, making it suitable for promotions and events.
- Immediacy: Radio allows for quick promotion of time-sensitive offers, such as weekend sales events.
- Audience Targeting: Sarah can select radio stations that align with the demographics and interests of the dealership's potential customers.
- Audio Branding: Radio allows for the creation of memorable jingles or advertisements that reinforce the brand's identity.
Negatives of Radio Advertising:
- Limited Metrics: Radio advertising can be challenging to track and measure accurately, making it difficult to calculate ROI compared to digital advertising.
- Lack of Visuals: Unlike television or digital ads, radio relies solely on audio, which may limit the ability to convey certain messages or showcase product visuals.
- Competitive Clutter: The automotive industry is competitive on radio, leading to potential message clutter that may dilute the impact of advertisements.
- Limited Targeting Options: While radio can offer some degree of audience targeting, it may not be as precise as digital advertising in reaching specific demographics.
- Short Lifespan: Radio advertisements have a relatively short lifespan compared to some digital content, which can be evergreen.
Understanding Sarah Mitchell's role, challenges, and preferences will enable radio advertising providers to tailor their proposals and strategies to effectively meet the dealership group's marketing objectives in Atlanta, Georgia.
While the profile lacks details that make it specific to Atlanta (for example, it doesn't name any specific television competitors or cite any websites that might be unique to that market), it does give a pretty good broad overview.
The Limitations of AI Audience Personas
While it's helpful to use AI to create audience personas, I think it's always better to hire professional researchers to do the job when you can. Of course, I'm biased, so don't take my word for it. I asked ChatGPT, “What are the limitations of using A.I. to generate audience personas instead of hiring a professional research firm to interview actual audience members to create personas?”
Using AI to generate audience personas has its advantages, such as speed and cost-efficiency, but it also comes with several limitations when compared to the traditional method of hiring a professional research firm to interview actual audience members. Here are some of the key limitations:
- Lack of Depth and Nuance: AI-generated personas rely on existing data and patterns, which may not capture the depth and nuance of human behavior and preferences. These personas are based on historical data and may not reflect current or evolving trends accurately.
- Limited Context: AI lacks the ability to understand the context of individual responses. It may not be able to interpret the underlying motivations or emotions that influence audience behavior, which human researchers can do through interviews and qualitative research.
- Bias in Data: AI models are trained on historical data, which can contain biases present in the data source. This can lead to biased personas that reinforce existing stereotypes or exclude underrepresented groups.
- Incomplete Information: AI-generated personas rely on available data, and there may be gaps in the data that can result in incomplete or inaccurate personas. It cannot capture information that hasn't been collected previously.
- Inability to Adapt Quickly: AI-generated personas may struggle to adapt to rapidly changing audience behaviors or emerging trends. They may become outdated quickly, whereas human researchers can adapt their methods and questions to stay up-to-date.
- Lack of Qualitative Insights: AI can analyze quantitative data efficiently but may struggle to provide the rich qualitative insights that come from in-depth interviews and conversations with real audience members.
- Limited Creativity and Empathy: AI lacks creativity and empathy, which are essential when understanding and connecting with an audience on a deeper level. Human researchers can ask probing questions and explore unexpected avenues in interviews.
- Difficulty in Handling Unique Cases: AI may have difficulty dealing with unique or outlier cases that require a more flexible and nuanced approach. Human researchers can adapt their methods to suit these cases.
- Ethical Concerns: The use of AI in audience profiling can raise ethical concerns, especially when it comes to privacy and the potential for misuse of personal data.
- Validation Issues: AI-generated personas may lack the means for validation and verification that human researchers can employ to ensure the accuracy and reliability of their findings.
In summary, while AI can be a valuable tool for generating audience personas quickly and at a lower cost, it is not a substitute for the depth, context, and qualitative insights that human researchers can provide through interviews and direct interactions with real audience members. A combination of both AI and human research methods can often yield the most comprehensive and accurate audience personas.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
If you work for a public radio station and you want to know how we can help your station with professionally crafted personas, please check out our latest white paper.
Thanks for the tip, Shannon!
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