From first impressions to commencement day, your job as a higher education marketer is to create meaningful relationships that will leave a lasting impact on students and alumni.
Today, most students will tell you that their first touchpoint with a university was online. Prospecting students will most likely find and engage with your university through a social media post, brochure, blog post, or display ads.
First impressions count for higher education marketing, so creating quality content that attracts the right talent requires some thought and planning.
Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you! Below, you can find out about the areas you should be focussing your attention on when it comes to your higher education marketing strategy.
Time to soak up the knowledge!
The methods you should rely on
There's no denying that the digital age has significantly impacted the way schools and universities communicate effectively, from enrolment to advancement. Nowadays, it's almost second nature for people to read something from the palm of their hand even when a printed version is sitting right in front of them.
Of course, print communications will never go away, but its role within your marketing toolkit has already noticeably changed. Unlike the days when students would patiently wait for pamphlets and brochures from their dream schools to arrive in their mailbox, today's students are now taking the initiative to seek out the information they want, when and how they want it.
Nevertheless, universities still rely on older methods that aren't as effective with a new generation of people who are used to getting personalized communications.
Here’s a look at what used to work:
- Direct Mail
- Generic Websites
- Program Pamphlets
- Print Magazines
- Flippable PDFs
- Generic Newsletters
- Broadcast Email
Here’s what works now:
- Personalized Content
- Virtual experiences
- Videos & Social Media
- Interactive Content
- Mobile Apps
- Tailored newsletters
- Personalized, triggered email
Some higher education marketers are beginning to jump on the content marketing bandwagon with that in mind. From podcasts to video series, schools are getting creative about how to better engage with their audiences.
Take a look at these examples:
The University of Colorado at Boulder knows the importance of and isn’t afraid to invest in their student’s stories. This video testimonial from a current student interlaces the interview with animations, which helps increase the engagement factor.
University of California Merced's interactive admissions brochure allows prospects to get information, view social media pages, and even apply for admissions directly from the brochure itself.
New York University has a video of current students thanking alumni and donors for their contributions giving NYU’s donation page a personal touch, unlike any other school’s.
Keep up with technology
To further your position as a pioneer of higher education, your institution needs to keep up with modern-day technologies and leverage them to maximize the return on your university's communications efforts.
Four key areas you should be focussing on include:
Letting your audiences engage how they want (when they want)
Nowadays, students and alumni are used to accessing the information they want. However, they want. Unlike in the past, prospective students' research and selection processes are on-demand and self-directed. Give them a chance to direct their college journey and explore, interact, and converse with their preferred content to their preferences.
Create content that’s mobile responsive
We are now living in the reality of a mobile-first world. Mobile-friendliness is no longer an option but a necessity. According to the Global Web Index, the typical digital consumer owns an average of 3.23 devices, and for Gen Zers, it's up to 5.
Fifty-five percent of them are on their smartphones for 5+ hours a day, and some universities have even begun catering to their browsing habits with mobile-friendly college applications.
Visually tell your school's story
There's a reason why digital storytelling is all the rage these days. Most university marketing can sound remarkably similar, so making your brand stand out is important. It's no secret that stories and visuals are scientifically proven to be more memorable and engaging. Using visuals to tell your school's story more authentically can be a huge draw in the age of social media.
Use data to make informed decisions
The increasingly competitive admissions landscape means universities can no longer afford to lose out on their leads and prospects to their competitors. Digital content gives universities the power to perform closed-loop reporting.
The numbers can be used to further optimize content that is more likely to move leads down the admissions pipeline. This allows progressive institutions to measure, target, and engage.
You can learn more about how to keep up with innovation as the rules of engagement change in our 2022 Complete Guide to Higher Education Marketing.
Delivering the right message to prospective students
Of course, it’s not about creating more content but instead creating more relevant
So how can you ensure your university’s message is useful, timely, and relevant?
The answer is in using life cycle funnels and journey maps. Engaging your prospective students and alumni with useful content at the beginning, middle, and end of their journey will allow you to convert your prospects to students, alumni, and alumni to donors.
An ideal first step is to perform a content audit on existing resources to assess what should be repurposed, republished, or removed.
Once you’ve taken inventory of your content, you should map your current assets to the journey to evaluate what content gaps need to be filled. Setting goals at different stages will lead you to a lifelong relationship with your alumni.
Read more about life cycle funnels and journey maps here.
Time to experiment
Well executed content has the power to attract prospective students to your website and provide them with the information they need to consider your university as the perfect fit for them.
There’s no doubt that content marketing in higher education is a creative process. There's so much you can do and experiment with. Technology is making things easier, too, making content creation and marketing a less time-consuming process.