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Audience Personas and
Strategic Segmentation

Through my collaboration with the data science team and personal experience with digital marketing, I've implemented a number of highly successful segmentation strategies.


I play an ongoing and vital role in the close collaboration between the communications and data science teams at the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. One project evolving project that has come from this collaboration is the development of audience personas to help our organization communicate with alumni, donors, and friends in a more personalized approach.



A persona is a way to model, summarize, and communicate research about people who have been observed or researched in some way. A persona is depicted as a specific person but is not a real individual; rather, it is synthesized from the observations of many people. Each persona represents a significant portion of people in the real world and enables us to focus on a manageable and memorable cast of characters, instead of focusing on thousands of individuals (Shlomo Goltz, Hersay Social).


Application of Personas​

Not only did I actively participate in the development of the individual personas, I also worked with data scientists and leadership on multiple projects to apply them strategically to email marketing campaigns to test their effectiveness. We are most successful in fundraising, engagement, and awareness efforts when audiences are effectively targeted. We found multiple results proved this to be true in regards to the personas initiative. Personas help us provide creative communications that resonate with our target audiences.

Personas + Segmentation​

Segmentation is often paired with personas. Target audiences for experiments can include specific personas or be a combination of personas and other attributes determined in our constituent management system. Attributes could include giving amounts, graduation dates, geographical locations, or other features.


Iowa Magazine Personalization​

The monthly Iowa Magazine email send to 150,000+ alumni, fans, and friends of the University of Iowa provided the perfect opportunity to test persona segmentation. Throughout 2020, I was directly involved in the formulation, execution, and reporting on twelve experimental segments of the Iowa Magazine email. These personalized email segments, when compared to the general Iowa Magazine audiences, had 18% higher open rates and 32% higher click rates. Statistically, we can be 99% certain that the changes made to the content for these audience segments created these results and not random chance.

One Day for Iowa 2021 Personalization​

During the University of Iowa's 24-hour online giving day, One Day for Iowa, I leveraged seven persona audiences and experimental segmentation to solicit gifts. Each audience had optimized ad text and images that I knew would appeal to them. For every $1 spent on Facebook advertising, $2.29 in donations were brought in for a 229% ROI.

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