on June 07, 2017 Personas

How to Create Candidate Personas for Your School

Candidate personas will help your school attract mission appropriate families by understanding who they are.

Candidate personas are a fictional representation of your ideal student and family. Though it is a general, broad overview, it is also a realistic perspective based on research. Understanding the various personas will help your school attract ideal families by tailoring content to the specific desires and concerns (pain points) of each group.

Why are personas important?

If you don’t know who you are creating content for, how will you create messages that speak directly to that person?  

Creating candidate personas for your school will help identify the different types of families you want to attract, thereby making it easier to tailor content: blog posts, social posts, ebooks, whitepapers, webinars, etc. When you know exactly what a particular segment’s desires, needs, and concerns (pain points) are, you will be able to create marketing messages that work.

The foundation of a successful inbound marketing campaign is that you begin to solve the problems and provide resources for potential families BEFORE you even speak to them about school options. 

Where do you find information to create a persona?

The strongest candidate personas are based on market research as well as on insights you gather from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.). Depending on your school, you may have as few as two personas, or upwards of 10 or more. The most important thing is to start with two and create the main personas for your school. You can always create more later. 

Whether these are your most challenging groups or the segment of your community that needs the most growth, begin with the two personas that best reflect the most mission-appropriate families for your school. 

Think about the target audience that you most want to serve. This could be families that are already part of your school or maybe the audience is one that is becoming more challenging to reach. It could also be a demographic that you would like to grow within your school. 

Another audience to consider in international education is faculty recruitment; you want the best teachers and administrators in their field. Developing a candidate persona for these positions will help your HR department find mission appropriate candidates.

Often with international schools, information for family or student personas can be found in the admissions department database. It can be pulled from actual applicant files and extrapolated from information staff receive as they are conducting school tours and answering parent inquiries. The more specific you are, the more effective your marketing messages will be. 

Download our FREE Candidate Persona Template to learn how to create profiles that attract mission appropriate families.

A persona can also be identified by analyzing the changing demographic landscape in your city and surrounding your school.

While parents may come in to visit the school or make their final decision together, it is typically only one of them doing the research in advance. And this decision maker is you want to focus on while producing your marketing messaging. You’ll need to decide who that is and craft the persona around that person.

Whatever the audience is, the purpose of a persona is to identify a variety of target audiences and understand them as much as possible so you can engage them in a conversation through an inbound marketing campaign or what we call a "Bundle".

How to use the Candidate Persona Template. 

It may seem a little daunting to tackle the research and compile it into a manageable document which is why we’ve created a Candidate Persona Template for you to use. Each of the four slides answers one of the critical components of a story: who, what, why, and how.

Here’s an example of how you can use the template.

Start with the basics.

This is the who. Research the persona’s background. What is their family situation? How old are they? How many children do they have? Think about how they like to do their research and communicate.

Questions to consider:


  1. Which individual conducts the research for the child’s education?
  2. Include this person's name.
  3. Include a picture of what this person most likely looks like.

Background (Who):

  1. Where are they currently living?
  2. What type of job does this person and/or their spouse have?
  3. What is their education level and from what type of school?
  4. Who will make the final school decision? 
  5. Are they a first time expat?

Demographics (Who):

  1. Age?
  2. Family income?
  3. Do both parents work or just one?
  4. What passports do the family have?
  5. Languages?

 Identifiers (Who):

  1. Are they friendly and easy to speak with?
  2. Do they want to be involved in the school?
  3. Do they ask a lot of questions?
  4. How do they do their research? How do they find out about school options?
    1. Blogs
    2. Print
    3. Social media
    4. Referrals (word of mouth)
  5. What type of communication do they like to receive?
    1. Email
    2. Social media
    3. Print materials


What is their what? 

This is where you identify what is important to them; their goals and their challenges. It’s also where you begin to outline what you can do to help this persona, not only achieve their goals, but overcome their fears and challenges.

Questions to consider:

Goals (What):

  1. What do they value?
  2. What do they want from a school?
  3. How do they define a successful eduction for their child?
  4. What type of education do they want for their child?
  5. What are their expectations from the school they choose?

Challenges (What):

  1. What are the biggest problems they need to solve before choosing a school?
  2. What are their biggest fears for themselves?
  3. What are their biggest fears for their children?
  4. Have they heard of your school before? 

What can we do (What):

  1. How can your school answer and/or solve their challenges?


Next, start asking why.

What are some of the most commonly heard objections? Try and identify some real quotes you’ve heard from prospective families. By tying the persona to real-life experiences, it becomes more authentic and valuable.

Questions to consider:

Real Quotes (Why):

  1. What are the most common statements or phrases you will hear from a parent during the admissions process?
    1. Positive
    2. Negative

 Common objections (Why):

  1. What are the common things people say as a reason to not choose your school?
  2. What things might they “complain” about?


And then there’s the how.

This is where your marketing and admissions departments begin to take action – together! When you craft marketing messages and elevator pitches that are easy for all team members to adopt and use, your marketing efforts multiply exponentially and your admissions funnel fills up with mission-appropriate students and families.

Questions to consider:

Marketing messaging (How):

  1. What messages can you send to help answer their pain points?
  2. What information can you provide to solve their problems and overcome their objections?

persona_template4.png Once you compile all of the information about your candidate persona, make sure you give them a name and identifier. You could choose something like US Expat Susan, or CEO Katherine. Take it to the next step and choose a photo that represents this persona. There are several stock image sites where you can purchase one very affordable. This may seem like it’s taking things a little too far, but trust us, it really helps to identify the persona when you have a face and a name associated with it. New Call-to-action


Maryanne Lechleiter

Maryanne is a superhero both in our eyes and our clients'. She has an expert ability to drill down and understand what our clients need (even when they can't articulate it). Combining her skills as a marketer with her creative sensibilities is how she creates marketing solutions that deliver a strong ROI. Prior to joining IMPACT, she was the founder and publisher of Stimuli magazine. She's also been the Chair on a board of directors for a non-profit faith-based organization. It's these experiences that make her a force to be reckoned with both at IMPACT and her everyday life. When not strategizing, project managing, or problem-solving, you can find Maryanne behind a book, travelling the world, relaxing by - or in - the water, or helping women develop the skills and confidence to step into leadership.