When it comes to conveying the college experience, admissions and marketing should be working in tandem. The college admissions team serves as the ambassadors of a university and has first-hand experience interacting with prospective students and their families. The marketing team brings a global perspective on how student recruitment and admissions fit into the university’s overall marketing strategy and what marketing tools and resources are available to support the admissions process. Collaboration between these two teams is key to a university’s marketing success…as is leveraging storytelling as the lynchpin of a higher ed marketing strategy.
Think back to your own college search. What did you want to know before you decided where to pursue your degree? Beyond what courses and majors were available, you likely wanted to know what it would be like to be a student at your chosen university. And, who better to tell an authentic story about the college experience than the students who are currently enrolled at the university. While the students will often be the central characters in your higher ed marketing stories, showcasing the depth and breadth of what your university has to offer requires bringing the voices of professors and admissions counselors into the mix.
Where should higher ed marketing stories be told?
While every university’s marketing mix is unique, the continued growth of video begs for some compelling YouTube content and embedded video on your university’s website. If you decide to integrate video as a storytelling tool, know which videos are well-suited for a more grassroots product shot on a smartphone and when a professionally-produced video is the best solution. In general, profile videos and longer format assets are best left to the video production professionals. Of course, you’ll want to be sure your marketing team and key university representatives are involved in the scripting process so that the final product is on-brand and well-suited to your video marketing objectives.
A blog is another great tool for storytelling. Blogs allow universities to tell a multimedia story – envision a Q&A with a current MBA student, a video profiling the university’s MBA program and a call-to-action inviting readers to learn more about the MBA program coming together into one online marketing asset. To maximize the ROI of your university’s blog, consider integrating compelling calls-to-action in each post and linking to premium content downloads gated behind data capture forms that will allow you to gather key information from prospective students and enroll them in an email marketing drip (also known as lead nurturing) campaign.
Photographs are also powerful storytelling assets. And, with 55 percent of online 18-29-year-olds using Instagram, there is a tremendous opportunity for universities to engage prospective students’ visual marketing channels. Consider recruiting student curators to takeover (with proper policies and oversight, of course) the university’s Instagram channel for a day to share their on-campus experience. Identify opportunities to gather photos from events, in-classroom experiences, trips and the like to present a holistic story of what life is like for students enrolled at your university.
Storytelling is a tried and true marketing tactic that engages target audiences and drives action. For colleges and universities, storytelling is an opportunity to bring the on-campus experience to prospective students across the U.S. and to attract international students as well. As you embark upon defining your university’s storytelling strategy, focus on a multi-channel approach that exposes all aspects of campus life from classes to clubs to off-campus learning opportunities.
Storytelling is the core of an effective content marketing program. If using online content to share student stories and recruiting prospective students to your university are among your marketing objectives, download our guide to attracting students to your college or university for helpful tips.