You may have used the word “persona” used the typical way: as a sort-of synonym for “alter ego”. You might have also seen the word used in the phrase” public persona”, when someone is trying to distinguish a person’s outer role from their inner self. But did you know that personae can also be used in marketing?

The Marcomm Department is in the middle of a pilot project to determine whether personae can be an effective tool through which to promote our offerings to our membership. But before I talk too much more about that project (and how we hope to offer it as a helpful tool to other departments if it works out for us), a brief background on the use of personae may be helpful.

Alan Cooper is a software designer and programmer who is widely recognized in certain techie circles as the “Father of Visual Basic”. While working with teams to create computer programs, he noticed that some developers would cobble together products as if they themselves were the end user.  And because most end users are not programmers, this understandably caused problems with the ease with which people interacted with the resultant software. To help programmers better understand and empathize with the habits and needs of end users, he brought forth the then-novel idea that software be designed and written for archetypal users known as “personae” (rather than just ”the end user”). Tech marketers, salespeople, and advertisers quickly saw the value of personae for their parts of the product cycle. After that, other industries adopted similar practices. Because done properly, personae can be very effective.

As used for NHBA purposes, personae are more than “pretend attorneys”: they help us here in Marcomm better understand the goals, motivations, constraints, and pain points of our members. Because our events, CLES and other member services/programs are typically intended for use by more than one category of member — each with potentially different preferences and expectations — personae are created for each category we deem important to serve well. We see them as an answer to the observation that trying to please everybody ends up pleasing nobody. (And that trying to please just “members” in general fails for exactly the same reason.)

So far, Kailah, Misty, and Nancy have developed nine personae so far , with more likely to follow as the pilot project continues. Meet three of them right now (the following are summaries of the far more detailed writeups):

  • “Mikey” is a retired Superior Court judge in his early 70s. He has lots of energy, is healthy and well adjusted, and is generally content with life. Before being appointed to the bench, he was a small firm practitioner; the firm he founded decades ago is still going strong today. Mikey has served on the Board of Governors and CLE Committee and is a Bar Foundation Fellow. He feels a kinship to the NH legal community and with the NHBA. He’s confident in his intelligence and opinions and is not afraid to express them. When he isn’t taking CLEs “for fun” and to socialize, he’s speaking to public school kids about the importance of civics for the LRE Committee. He is also a NHBA mentor for a local law clerk.


  • Tom” works for a large firm in Manchester and lives in Bedford. He’s been an attorney for 5 years now and is an Inn of Court Member. He went to Suffolk Law and graduated in his late 30s. He wants to “catch up” with his peers (attorneys in their 40s) and doesn’t feel any connection to his graduation peers (attorneys in their late 20s). He thought he would be farther along in his career by now and have more control. He doesn’t ask for help because he is too proud. He is considering Leadership Academy, thinking that may help advance his career and respect from peers. He attends CLEs, events, and meetings primarily for networking opportunities.


  • Emma” is a law clerk in her late 20s and a Daniel Webster Scholar. She lives in Portsmouth and commutes to Nashua for work. She has strong opinions and considers herself a social justice warrior. She is on social media for engagement with her friends and family, but is cautious of what she posts because of her law clerk status. She takes pride in being frugal, saving to get married to her fiancé. She works hard to make her Nepali parents proud and went to law school because they considered it to be “a respected profession”. She feels disconnected from the NHBA and believes there isn’t much to offer her as a law clerk besides the required Practical Skills course. Her student loan debt stress is baring down and she hopes for student loan forgiveness for public service.

In a follow-up article, I’ll discuss how Team Marcomm has incorporated the use of personae for some recent projects, including ads, brochures, social media, planning, and more. I’ll also introduce you to three more personae. Have ideas on how your department can incorporate personae into the work you do? Drop me an e-mail or swing by my office.

~ Lynne Sabean