Creating characters keeps me focused

Posted on June 23, 2011

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So, I was lucky enough to be at Wimbledon yesterday, thanks to a a kind client. Naturally, I was there for the tennis, but I was also there to do a bit of business. In the course of the afternoon I got chatting to Dom Wright of Insights. These guys have taken the Myers Briggs (MBTI) work to a different level and done all sorts of clever stuff to help people understand how they respond in different circumstances, with team members and in general work scenarios. Great stuff.

This got me to thinking about some of the standard work I do for clients when planning comms. I’m often creating personas or composites of characters that I talk to during research. Maybe this has something to do with my theatrical past and the love of drama. Whatever it is, these personas enable my colleagues and I to build a cast of characters to stress test communication ideas. It makes sure we’re producing stuff for the end audience rather than just for me. Well, it’s easy to make yourself the centre of the universe and forget that you have an audience. As David Foster Wallace put it, “Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness, because it’s so socially repulsive, but it’s pretty much the same for all of us, deep down.”

So, after chatting with Dom we decided to give some of my fake personas a phantom MBTI test to see what it says about them. This is going to be great as it may well illustrate aspects of their character and needs that communication can address.

Hopefully this richer MBTI work will help me keep focused on the audience need rather than on my gut reactions and what I like – that’s not to say that my gut reactions might not invent something that the audience doesn’t yet know it wants.

This is an idea I’d love to take further with actors – to get them to complete the test in character and use the results to help them shape their work further. Could be very useful.Whether it’s theatre or comms planning it’s something new for me to add to the mix.

PS – the bit about Wimbledon up front was just for gloating value.

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