Who’re they, you may well ask. Why do I want to meet them? Well, the truth is they don’t exist but we’ve created them to use as personas within FunDza to build profile of our audience and who we are reaching.

We were introduced to the concept of personas by Emma O’Shaughnessy, a communications expert, who joined us for our April face-to-face team workshop.

She introduced us to a number of useful communications concepts that culminated in us spending the afternoon interrogating data from surveys and other studies to come up with composite characters who represent some of the hundreds of thousands of young people who connect with us through our digital programmes.

We found that the results from our annual survey were exceptionally useful in helping us to build these profiles, as thousands of readers gave us much qualitative and quantitative feedback on their experiences of fundza.mobi that we could draw on. And, the process enabled us to see gaps in our offerings and think of new ways to help our readers and writers connect with us more easily.

Now it’s time to meet…

Lerato, an avid reader on fundza.mobi
She’s 20 years old and lives in Soweto. She’s finished her matric and has dreams of studying further but with a total household income of less than R5,000 a month (and five mouths to feed) these opportunities are few and far between, especially as she needs to take care of her four younger siblings as her mother is working most days.

Lerato loves reading – she finds comfort in the stories and information she receives – spending about an hour most days on fundza.mobi. She also shares the children’s stories with her brothers and sisters as they don’t have other books to read in their home.

She’s worried about her future and her ability to become employed. Opportunities in her neighbourhood are limited. The community is relatively dangerous thanks to crime and some gang violence. Many young people find comfort through alcohol and drugs. Lerato doesn’t want this future for herself so she stays at home a lot – to stay safe and off the streets.

She’s got a smartphone that was handed down to her. She can use it but she’s not that digitally literate and she doesn’t surf the internet in general but only goes to known and ‘safe’ spaces.

She’s secretly writing some poems and would like to submit her writing for publication on fundza.mobi but doesn’t know how to. She’s also keen to sign up for some of the courses but gets confused with the registration process. If only things were simpler!

She loves FunDza and tells her friends about it… but even though she is on Facebook she hasn’t connected with FunDza in that space.

And, Refiloe, a 21-year-old enthusiastic writer on fundza.mobi
She also lives in Gauteng – Mamelodi township – and is studying accounting through a TVET college. She lives with her single mom and younger brother in an RDP house.

She loves writing but she sees this as a hobby – an outlet for her thoughts and feelings. Her focus is on finishing her studies and eventually becoming a Chartered Accountant so that she can have financial security for herself and her family.

She loves being published but gets frustrated that it takes so long from the point at which she submits a piece to the time when she sees it online. What are those FunDza people doing, she wonders… twiddling their thumbs?!

The one thing that is anxiety-provoking for her is negative feedback from other FunDza readers on her pieces. It hasn’t happened often… but there was that one comment that stuck with her and made her not want to send in more work for a little while. But then she reminded herself that she was a strong, confident and independent woman… and what did that reader know anyway – they couldn’t even spell properly!

Refiloe is pretty tech-savvy and loves to submit her work via WhatsApp. She’s keen to learn and loves the writing challenges and writing tips – as these push her to work outside her comfort zone. But she doesn’t have a lot of time and she’d like the submission process to be easier – particularly if you realise you’ve made a mistake. At the moment, there’s no way of going back to correct it.


After fleshing out these two characters fully, the team realised that there were a couple of quick and easy wins that we could do to make Lerato and Refiloe’s lives (and the thousands of others like them) easier and better…

Here are some of our thoughts:

1. Provide better help material for entering competitions and registering for courses. We’ve done this with our currently running ‘That Majola Magic’ course competition – providing a step-by-step guide on how to enter, and we can see that this has increased engagement.

2. Run more promotions like the hugely successful #FantasticFunDzaFanz promotion in September 2020 (more here) to reward our big readers and to make them more visible.

3. Make the links to our social media platforms more obvious on our site – this is part of a redesign underway.

4. Shorten the user journey for writing submissions via WhatsApp and make crystal clear the type of response required at all points to reduce errors (we have made some improvements here already).

5. Continue commissioning and publishing the encouraging, inspirational content that we do… it is making a difference to the “Leratos” and “Refiloes” who connect with our fundza.mobi world.

Importantly, our work with personas doesn’t stop with just Lerato and Refiloe – although we will certainly lean on them for more learning in the future – but we’ll be introducing more personas so that we can deepen our understanding of those we are most trying to reach and serve, and figure out new ways of doing this better.

Big thanks to Emma O’Shaughnessy for passing on some of her treasure chest of knowledge and skills!