Apr 27, 2021

How to evolve your target personas in higher education post COVID

Randy Micheletti Education, Full Funnel Marketing, G/L Approach, Planning, Strategy
Randy Micheletti VP, Director of Account Services

As most of you know, your target personas should be a living document. Because society experiences shifts in attitudes and external factors, these personas should change as frequently as necessary to ensure accuracy. Markets can change quickly, and effective marketing must evolve with it. Many industries have experienced a dramatic shift in response to the past year, but perhaps none as much as higher education. 

As higher ed marketers continue to battle for students, especially after the COVID pandemic, now is the time to take a look at your personas and realize what COVID has changed in the mind of your students. It seems all but certain that the way they look at the world and their criteria for choosing their college education has changed. What are their motivators now? What are their pain points? Here’s a few ideas to help when taking a fresh look at your student personas.

Where Is the Line Between Online and Traditional Learning? 

If you haven’t done it already, we’d recommend developing personas for both online and offline/traditional students. Many students who adopted online learning because of COVID will continue down that path, but there will always be the need for offline/traditional student personas. Each of these two students’ personas have different motivators in their higher education experience. Online students are looking for a convenient way to earn their degree without disrupting their current lifestyle or career, while offline/traditional students evaluate campus life, college experiences, etc. as part of their selection process. As you can see, your message and approach to each will be completely different.

It’s Time to Rethink the Enrollment Journey

With the immediate future a bit unknown, students are still deciding on their best approach to higher ed. Still, many students are progressing towards applying for college selection, but the typical enrollment journey is most likely different. Our recommendation would be to review your persona’s enrollment journey and draft additional personas that account for changes in your audience, e.g. short-term vs long-term leads. 

The “Typical” Student Is Anything But 

More than ever, there is no such thing as a “typical” student persona because COVID has changed what that student looks like. With the loss of jobs and livelihoods during COVID, it’s possible that your students might become older since many people will be starting over or trying out new careers. Additionally, younger students might be looking for more online classes than they had previously. Either way, you need to develop new student personas.

Financial Concerns Will Become More Common

With so many temporary or permanent layoffs that will hinder the ability for many students to attend college, financial concerns will become a much more important consideration for a large number of students. This barrier to entry should be taken into consideration immediately across all personas.

New Safety Concerns Must Be Addressed

Last, but certainly not least, is the safety of all students. Will your students expect smaller classes? Redesigned classrooms that include social distancing? Sanitary processes to help with the spread of COVID? You better believe these are top of mind with possible students. It is very important to convey to students all the measures that you’re taking to protect them so they can continue their learning in a safe environment.

At Geile/Leon, we understand how to write the most effective personas across many different categories. If you’re in need of assistance updating your student personas, we’d love to assist. If you’d like to talk or see samples of our personas, please reach out. We can help.

Reference: Higher Education Marketing – “What will your student personas look like after COVID-19?”, May 2020