Press office sprint 1: journalist personas

Sprinting – running at full speed over a short distance. That’s what the word meant to me before joining EMBL on 2 November 2017. Who would’ve thought that merely six weeks later, I would actually be leading an Agile sprint focusing on journalist personas? Not me. But I truly enjoyed the first press office sprint and want to share some of our insights with you.

We started off with a training on Agile processes and concepts, which came in handy for Oana, Verena and myself: all new at sprinting. The first thing we learned is that what we were doing was not your typical sprint. These normally last several weeks and ideally have five to nine people join in. The three of us sprinted for two and a half days. But we were very happy with our unique set-up: the time frame matched the goals we defined in advance (see below), and the small group size allowed for plenty of in-depth discussions. The burst of attention for one single topic was a pleasant change from the everyday hustle of alternating between multiple smaller tasks.

Our goals in this sprint were to:

1) Create six journalist proto-personas: fictional characters to represent the press office’s key audiences in the media landscape.
2) Draft a plan on how to use these personas in the everyday work of the press office and other members of the Strategy and Communications team.

How can we use journalist personas?

The sprint was a great way to take a step back and really think about the needs of the journalists we want to reach most. What drives them? What do they find interesting? What do they know about EMBL and what should they know about us? How can we pitch our stories to them in the most effective way?

With this new information, we can set strategic priorities in our press work (i.e. decide on which stories we should put most effort into) and adapt the services we offer (i.e. provide useful supporting assets such as graphics and soundbites).

Furthermore, we believe that the final personas can provide a way for the Strategy and Communications team and anyone else who does targeted communication at EMBL to identify and empathise with the journalists we work with. This could make it easier to implement their user needs in your own work as well, for example during the editorial meeting or during production work.

Crafting proto-personas

In crafting our personas, we started off with a discussion on all the audiences in the media landscape that are relevant to EMBL. Boiling these down to six ‘user types’ was quite a challenge, but after two days of fanatic post-it pasting and drawing on flip-charts, we came up with some drafts, which we ran past a few members of the team.

Still, we won’t share our six journalist personas with you just yet, because what we learned is that your personas are only as good as the research that goes into them. We already started validating our personas with desk research and feedback from colleagues, but now it’s time to go out into the real world and test them by talking to real journalists. We aim to check if their goals and needs actually match the ones we’ve thought of.

Validating proto-personas

In February, Oana and myself will be traveling to AAAS – the largest global science gathering – to do this. In addition, we will also be testing the personas continuously in our day-to-day work. After incorporating possible new insights into the personas, I will present our final personas to the team later in Spring.

So stay tuned for the final outcome, and in the meantime please let me know in case you have any questions, comments, praise or criticism – I would love to discuss it with you!

Author: Iris

I am EMBL’s Press Officer since November 2017, and here to help EMBL scientists with anything media-related. Besides reaching out to international (science) journalists with our most exciting research stories, I also advise researchers and research groups on their interactions with the media and provide them with feedback and training.

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