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Creating Stakeholder Buy-In: How to Make Personas Work for Your Team

Nosipho Nwigbo
Nosipho Nwigbo
Abstract illustration of the process to include stakeholders for persona data collection
This post is part of a series

In the first two installments of this series, I delved into why traditional personas often fall short and shared a dynamic, data-driven approach to crafting personas that truly resonate. But even the most meticulously crafted personas are worthless if your team doesn’t use them. So, how do you ensure that your stakeholders not only understand but also actively engage with your personas? The answer lies in creating stakeholder buy-in through transparency, involvement, and proper training.

Why Stakeholders Ignore Personas: The Transparency Gap

One of the primary reasons stakeholders don’t use personas is because they have no idea where the information is coming from. When personas appear out of nowhere, seemingly conjured by a mysterious UX or marketing wizard, they lack credibility. Stakeholders, understandably, are hesitant to base decisions on profiles that seem plucked from thin air. This transparency gap is a major barrier to effective persona usage.

To bridge this gap, it’s crucial to involve stakeholders in the persona creation process from the very beginning. Explain where the data comes from, how it’s collected, and how it’s analyzed. When stakeholders understand that personas are grounded in real, actionable data, they are more likely to trust and use them. Transparency in the persona development process not only builds trust but also demonstrates the robustness of the insights, making them a valuable tool for decision-making.

Personas as Validation Tools: The Misuse Dilemma

Designers and marketing teams often use personas only to validate existing designs or marketing messages, rather than as a source of inspiration for new work. There’s a reason for that. When personas are introduced late in the game or without sufficient involvement from key players, they are perceived as an afterthought—a box to tick off rather than a valuable asset.

To change this, personas need to be integrated into the early stages of the creative process. Involve designers and marketers in the persona creation phase so that they can see firsthand how personas are derived and what they represent. This early involvement ensures that personas are seen not just as validation tools, but as sources of fresh insights that can spark innovative ideas. By embedding personas into the workflow from the outset, they become integral to the creative process, inspiring new approaches and strategies.

Involvement from the Start: Building Engagement

The best way to get your team to use personas is to involve them from the beginning. This means not just telling them what will happen, but actively engaging them in the process. Start by sharing your plan: explain the purpose of the personas, the steps you will take to create them, and the expected outcomes. This openness helps demystify the process and sets clear expectations.

Involve stakeholders in data collection, whether through interviews, surveys, or observational studies. When team members are part of gathering insights, they develop a deeper connection to the data and a better understanding of its relevance. Encourage them to contribute their perspectives and expertise to the process. This collaboration fosters a sense of ownership and commitment, making it more likely that they will see the value in the personas and use them in their work.

Transparency in Data Collection and Implementation

To create effective buy-in, it’s essential to be transparent about how data will be captured and how insights will be implemented in the personas. Explain the methodologies you will use, such as interviews, surveys, or ethnographic research, and why you chose them. Share the criteria for selecting participants and the process for analyzing the data. This transparency helps stakeholders see that the personas are based on rigorous, well-thought-out research.

Show them how the insights from this data will be translated into persona profiles. For example, explain how recurring themes and behaviors identified during the research are used to define persona characteristics. Provide examples of how these insights can inform design decisions, marketing strategies, and customer interactions. By demonstrating the link between the research and the personas, you reinforce their validity and relevance, making them more compelling for stakeholders to use.

Training: Unlocking the Potential of Personas

There’s a common assumption that everyone knows how to use personas, but even the most seasoned teams often struggle with this. Personas are more than just profiles—they are tools for guiding decisions and actions. Without proper training, teams may fail to leverage the full potential of personas, leading to underutilization and missed opportunities.

Training should cover not only the basics of what personas are but also practical guidance on how to integrate them into daily workflows. Show how personas can inform design choices, shape marketing strategies, and enhance customer service. Provide examples of best practices and common pitfalls to avoid. Encourage hands-on practice through workshops or scenario-based exercises that demonstrate how to apply personas in real-world contexts.

Regularly revisit the personas with your team to update and refine them based on new data and feedback. This ongoing engagement helps ensure that personas remain relevant and useful, and reinforces the importance of using them as a living tool, rather than a static document.

Conclusion

Creating stakeholder buy-in is not a one-time task but an ongoing process of engagement and education. By involving your team from the start, being transparent about data collection and persona creation, and providing proper training on how to use personas, you can transform personas from neglected documents into powerful tools that drive user-centered decisions and inspire innovative work.

In this series, we’ve explored why traditional personas often fall short, how to create more dynamic and data-driven personas, and how to ensure that your team truly engages with them. By taking these steps, you can harness the full potential of personas, making them a vital part of your strategy to connect with and understand your customers.

Author

Nosipho Nwigbo
Nosipho Nwigbo

UX Research Specialist

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