A persona(l) approach to education marketing


By Vicky Irwin

Netflix binging on your laptop. Sharing memes about Trump on Twitter. Creating Instagram stories of your cinema trip in full Iron Man costume. We might be all sat in the same room. But online, and in our minds, we’re in very different places. The same applies to your audience, with every student having different ambitions, motivations and mindsets.

When it comes to education marketing, blanket advertising may keep some of your audience warm – but in reality, what will stir one prospective student could leave another cold. When it comes to marketing messaging that spurs people to take that leap, ‘one size fits all’ is fast becoming outdated. And often, the shoe is uncomfortable in all the wrong places.

Step up, audience personas

It’s a tried-and-tested way of deeply understanding your audience, neatly placing them into niche groups and mapping the messages and media that will resonate most strongly with each one. It’s also increasingly essential. We can segment people by things such as:

– Life stage (e.g. mature students, college leavers, professionals looking to upskill)

– Drivers (e.g. leading social change, career progression, status, exploring passions)

– Influencers (e.g. parents/guardians, teachers, friends, sector leaders)

– Traits (e.g. socially driven, confident, worrier, family focused, contemplative)

– Hobbies (e.g. cinema with friends, trying new recipes, eating out, activist)

– Media habits (e.g. video on demand, social, radio, cinema, newspapers, OOH)

– Media motivations (e.g. connecting, inspiration, information, entertainment)

– Online activity (e.g. booking tickets, payments, TV voting, location services, dating)

– Institute considerations (e.g. reputation, variety of courses, staff, rankings)

– Digital interactions (e.g. where, how often)

– Online brand interaction (e.g. ads, clicking links, watching video, visiting Facebook page)

– Preferred media brands (e.g. radio stations, video streaming, social channels)

– OOH attitudes (e.g. thoughts on various outdoor advertising formats and content)

We can also cross-reference across these areas. So, for example, we could pinpoint with some degree of accuracy how long a mature international student who is heavily influenced by their family would spend looking at university websites to research academic staff reputations, on what device and at which stage of the application process. Clever stuff.

And that’s exactly what’s key here: treating your audience as individuals and speaking directly to them – with the message they want to hear, in the tone they’ll be most responsive to, in the format they want to hear it, on the channels they’re already on, at the times they’re on them. Education marketing is becoming more bespoke, and with it, more effective too.

To discuss how we’ve helped institutions to develop audience personas – and their reach – or how we could support you, we’d love you to get in touch with us.