A Useful Persona

As promised last week, here is the first of 3 tools we will share to help with strategic planning: The Persona.

Why bother with a persona?

Personas are the best tool to ensure you avoid the biggest mistake we see across school marketing: content focused on your school, not your audience. The truth is, your audience cares more about solving their own problems than they do about your school. The more you help your audience with what they care about, the more they will lean in to your story, read more about your school, and take the next step to tour, apply or donate.

How do you create a useful persona?

Personas should not be busy work. Don’t waste your time on persona fluff. Make sure your personas are useful to developing your story across all marketing channels. Here are 3 tips how:

#1 Choose wisely: The most useful personas uncover insights about very specific people. Avoid general personas like ‘prospective parent’ or ‘prospective mother’. These will be a waste of time. Instead, really think of who your ideal audience is and push yourself to get into the details.


Rather than ‘prospective mother’, you may strategically choose to develop a persona for the First-Time Mother, the At-Home CEO (aka the type-A-at-home-mother), the Lean-in Executive Mother or the Expat Mother. Even within this quick list of ‘prospective mother’ ideas, you will uncover very different actionable insights for each as not all prospective mothers are the same.

#2 Do your research: You may think you know your audience inside and out, but don’t rely on intuition alone when developing your personas. Invest time and energy into research to uncover what you don’t know. This can (and should) include: social listening, social and online surveys, 1:1 interviews, open conversations and spending time in your audience’s environment as an observer.

#3 – Wrap it with action: For all the insights you glean from your research, make sure you conclude everything with the ‘so what’ as it relates directly to the work you do for your school. We call these actionable insights.

For example, maybe you discover your ‘At-Home CEO’ loves the Daily Skimm and reads it religiously – from her phone, in bed, before her little ones awake, and even before her morning coffee. This is great, but how then do you apply this insight to your work? What can you learn from her engagement with her favorite websites, emails or podcasts to make your school’s story stronger? How can you shape your content around what your audience already loves? Figure that out and write it down.

A useful example

Here is a useful example of a persona you can learn from. This persona was developed for a university with strategic goals to engage with senior executives from the business community. This is likely a strategic goal you can relate to, no matter what type of school you work with.

The university team approached us to help them with research on “The CEO”. They wanted to uncover key insights so their marketing team could develop effective content to truly engage with their senior executive target audience.

Our reaction: The CEO is not a target. CEO is way too broad and anonymous. Just like prospective mothers, not all CEOs are the same. We helped them go deeper and prioritize personas from a very comprehensive list of CEOs to choose from.

The result: We chose wisely, did our research and concluded everything with an actionable insight. Now the team has a useful persona they can share with their extended teams, has shaped their content strategy and helped create a very successful email series.


Enjoy and see you next Monday,

Cheryl Sig@500px

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