Persona is the role adopted by the speaker in addressing the audience. Speakers assume a
relationship with an audience that gives them their authority as speakers. Different roles carry
different attitudes of speakers toward audiences, and imply different ways for audiences to
consider the speaker.
Some Personae Speakers May Take
- Father to child
- Professional expert
- Fellow searcher
What are the characteristics of each of these persona?
Otis Walter offers three persona that he believes a speaker may take to establish his/her authority:
Three Persuasive Personae
- Identification: The speaker portrays himself as no different than the audience. "There is no
difference between you and I." The speaker is just one of the folks. This persona's power
depends on the fact that we like to talk to others that are like us.
- Agent: The speaker recites his/her special characteristics that make him/her someone the
audience should listen to. "I am superior to you by virtue of my expertise and training." The
persona's power comes from our tendency to listen to experts or those that have had direct
experiences with the things they talk about.
- Symbolic: The speaker has such a close relationship with his/her subject that they come to
represent that subject matter to us. Martin Luther King on civil rights. Bill Gates on the
future of computers.
Analyzing a Speaker's Use of Persona
These questions will help you analyze the speaker's strategic choices of persona. I don't necessarily recommend that you organize an evaluation of the strategies in this way, but this pattern will help you think through persona. Pose the following questions:
- Locate the strategies to establish persona:
- What persona defines the speaker's relationship with his/her audience?
- What persuasive persona does the speaker adopt?
- Analyze the speaker's motivation for using a persona strategy:
- What purpose is this persona designed to achieve?
- What obstacle is it designed to overcome?
- Evaluate how well the strategic choices satisfy the motivation for their choice.