Who are you? Ma-ma-ma-my personas...

(*Please feel free to hum “My Sharona” if you’re wondering what the heck my title means…Actually, humming wont’ really clarify things, so just read on.)

I just got back from the American Marketing Association’s Higher Education Marketing Symposium in San Diego and my brain feels like a big ol’ mess of new and exciting ideas. One of which was, “Hmm, I think you’re supposed to actually update a blog on a fairly frequent basis.” So here I am.

I’ve also been thinking about how my worlds sort of straddle higher education marketing and international education. That’s where I live and work, but I’m not sure if something I write for one group would be interesting for the other. And so I thought I should do my own “persona” exercise for this blog.

A classic tool in web design is to develop a small handful of key personas that represent your primary target audiences and humanize the process. You literally create sample people that you define in as much detail as possible: their attitude and personality, what language(s) they speak, level of education, gender, age, how they access your site (platform, location, etc.), familiarity with your ‘product’, etc. Keeping these personas in mind as you create and test the site helps make sure that it really satisfies (most of) the needs of each audience.

For international or multilingual sites, I think this is a really critical exercise. For example, I know that a large percentage of visitors to my site come from Germany (Hallo zusammen!), so I need to think about having a section in German or, at the very least, make relevant content for this audience easily accessible. But I also have to think about the fact that some people I work with are in key marketing roles, some are in study abroad offices, some are at NGOs, some are in university administration, and on and on and on.

Personally, my brain starts to freeze up when I think about this and my immediate reaction is to throw in the towel and just write what I want. Who can possibly satisfy all these different types of people in so many different locations? But that’s where creating personas comes in. It makes you clearly define your target audiences (if you haven’t already), which is already a great first step. And it gives you a clear process to think about what you need to do to offer them true value and usability.

So, ma-ma-ma-my personas, I will be thinking closely about you in the next few days. Or someone a lot like you!

3 Comments
  1. Hi, Megan. I actually spoke last week at the conference in San Diego and coincidentally I am speaking this week at a conference in Charlottesville on creating and using personas in higher education. I’d be happy to share some of the information with you.

    http://collegecommunicators.org/events/fall2010/

    Melissa Richards
    Director of Marketing and Publications
    Virginia Tech

  2. Hi Melissa! Too bad I missed your presentation in San Diego. I’d certainly be interesting to hear more about your thoughts on creating web personas for higher education.

    Feel free to post links to your presentation(s) here and/or drop me a line at megan at brenn-white.com. I’ll contact you via email as well!

    Thx…

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