Get it right by getting personal


Personas that help to deliver a clear message for City, University of London

The challenge

To create the perfect message for your audience, you need to know who you’re talking to. For City, University of London, they had a rough idea, but it needed to be refined. They were using the same message to cover all student groups, and that needed to change.

In order to change a university’s student communications for the better, you need to start from the core. And for us, we believe that begins with creating a valuable set of personas that can be used in a multitude of ways. It means that universities, and us, can get a better understanding of behavioural characteristics and key motivations.

Let’s get started

A one size fits all approach isn’t going to get you the results you desire, and that’s exactly what was happening to City. They needed to use a more tailored and personalised approach, to create a relationship with their students – we wanted the students to feel as if they’d picked the right university as soon as they read the messages.

We started by canvassing their first-year students with an online survey. Once we had 900 responses, we used a cluster analysis to identify homogeneous groups, or segments that had similar needs and attitudes. We had a lot of options to categorise City’s audiences, so we consulted their Marketing and Communications teams to select a cluster approach that would best enable them to use their personas day-to-day.

It was important to create a number of personas for both Undergraduate and Postgraduate audiences, using detailed descriptions that included typical age, background, motivations and drivers, interests, challenges and more. We made sure to have personas that covered each of the main subjects, at both study levels, as well as diving deeper into individual courses. We then created a series of sub-personas, which can be used when talking to potential international students.

To make sure the personas would be used effectively by the whole marketing and comms team, we created an easy to use internal microsite filled with all the vital information.

The personas have been used to specifically inform City’s approach when it comes to developing CRM communication plans, content, copywriting, advertising, optimising landing pages, SEO marketing and more.

We’re delighted. The persona work we partnered with SMRS on is already making a huge difference to the way we communicate, and we’re confident of seeing students responding to messages that are much more tailored to them. The project was incredibly complex, but SMRS made the whole process seem simple and clear.”
Dominic Davis
Head of Marketing and Recruitment