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Posts from the ‘Higher Education Marketing’ Category

Three Ways to Optimize Your Higher Ed Brand to be Best Poised for the Future

What it’s been, about a couple months since the AMA Higher Education Symposium in Atlanta, and parts of the conference still replay strong for many of us.  Our higher education clients have faced challenges with brand salience, message continuity and building affinity with the next generation of students.  There were numerous session topics that captured the attention of many, but three that spoke to these challenges resonated with us:

  1. Shared Brand Energy: The best path to a successful brand journey
  2. ReBranding: Success requires alignment and senior level participation
  3. Engaging and Educating Gen Z: Tap into their drive to be lifelong learners & solvers

1. Shared Brand Energy: An easy concept to understand, but very rarely executed well

At Gatesman, we’ve led and observed numerous rebranding initiatives among colleges and universities. They are challenging at best and a bust at worst due to wavering commitment, decentralization and lack of internal sell-in.  To succeed, we understand the obstacles that need to be overcome: multiple brand marks, numerous stakeholder groups, decentralization and disparate budgets to name a few.

Carol Keese, Associate VP Marketing, University of Virginia (UVA), said their brand journey started 2013 in midst of a complete turnover and the remaking of the UVA communications department. What’s more, two previous branding efforts had failed, setting up an amazingly challenging initiative for this third time around.

Keese pointed out that with a bicentennial on the horizon UVA knew the institution needed a cohesive story — including buy-in across a decentralized structure. All key stakeholders had to be involved from the beginning with checkpoints along the way. The third time resulted in a brand positioning around “Better Good.”

A narrative was needed to tie into the “Better Good.” Next, to bring this optimized brand to life, UVA created brand tools, guidelines and templates for broad access & use with their agencies and internal departments across all sectors of the university — including the UVA health system. Keese said critical to the successful outcome was to create a communications council — an internal collaborative group — assisting with guidelines across various messaging channels, entities, departments and outside agencies.

The results were impressive and reflect the key factors that Gatesman employs to ensure the success of our client’s higher ed branding initiatives:

  • “Authenticity”
  • Socialization is key
  • Creative approach that leads & serves
  • Create “desire” vs “force” messaging that’s available to everyone

2. ReBranding: Success directly tied to president’s steady hand and support of key stakeholders

We have found through our work with rebranding higher education institutions that consistent engagement has to start at the very top for a truly successful outcome. In fact, most of our brand immersion and positioning success has been initiated with new university presidents.  So it was no surprise to us that Key Nuttall, Chief Communications Officer, Wesleyan University, said any university rebranding must take these three critical steps:

  1. Must have the president on board
  2. Must have the ability for execution
  3. Must be committed to consistency post-rebranding

After these steps are taken, it’s important to sell the idea internally first and then connect to all key stakeholders in order to solicit their ongoing participation. Thorough rebranding has at least five phases:

  1. Discovery, immersion & research – which takes about one year to complete
  2. Compelling brand strategy – built around the brand truths
  3. Creative – “The Big Idea” with a fully integrated branding approach
  4. Test for relevance and affinity – to ensure messages resonate with key audiences
  5. Staged rollout – Internal first, then external

Overall, we agree with Nuttall that while the brand content is important, it won’t measure up or prevail without adhering to these four key takeaways:

  1. Institutional buy-in at the top has to be first
  2. Communicate with stakeholders — all the time
  3. Be authentic to the brand — always
  4. Testing/validation at every major step

3. Engaging and Educating Gen Z: Tap into their drive to be lifelong learners & solvers

One of our agency strengths is that we hack human behavior using advanced analytics, cognitive computing technology, social listening tools and the minds of our experienced strategists to drill deep into real time attitudes and motivations that drive the behavior of our clients’ target audiences, which for higher ed includes employees, parents, current and prospective students, alumni and strategic partners. We are students of consumer insights — studying, tracking and synthesizing what drives the emerging generational group, Gen Z.

We see paradigms shifting in the way to reach Gen Z.  Jaime Casap, Education Evangelist at Google, states, “We have to recognize that we don’t really live in this world today. We need to take ‘best of education’ and ask what needs to be done to take education to the next level and soon – because tomorrow is already here. The impact of technology drives the future and this role is not new, but today we’re better poised to bring more ideas to life.  Today most everyone uses technology every day.”

Gen Z has big worries: worried about jobs and worried about the world.  Real collaboration and engagement are key drivers for this cohort.  Their mindset is changing from “what job do I want to do?” to “what problem do I want to solve?”  Iteration is the result of constant critical thinking. At Gatesman, we see the challenges our clients are facing with the need for educators to enlighten students about how to convert information into intelligence and original thought with full-on engagement and real collaboration. Casap expressed that iteration and information are what drive transformation — this can happen anywhere. Transformation has no end point.

The goal is to turn our youth into life-long learners. It’s so much more rewarding and motivating for Gen Z to solve problems, a critical-thinking skill which sits within the wheelhouse of what educators can offer. Gatesman has been highly involved with hyper-targeting audiences for our clients for numerous recruitment engagements, ensuring that internal and external communications are on message, on target and on strategy to build a strong sense of community.

What are your pain points and how can we help you now?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the challenges facing your university. For more insights on what’s shifting in the Higher Ed landscape, subscribe to our blog The Quad or follow us on Twitter @Quad_ByGatesman.








Marketing “Small-Town” Colleges and Universities: Four Questions.

We’ve been reviewing websites and other materials for smaller universities and colleges outside major population centers. A typical formula for describing location is something like this: “Beautiful_____(name your town) is just ___(so many miles) from_____(name a medium-to-large city). It combines the history and charm of a small town with easy access to metropolitan resources.”

What’s limiting about this framing? For starters, the construction implies a liability: as a student you’ll be here, but not to worry because you can easily get to there.

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Time to Re-Position “College”?

This sounds like a dramatic thought for a time-honored brand: College. But it may be the right time. The trigger for change is to acknowledge the plight of many college graduates and realize the promise of a college degree has not been met.

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The Flaw of Last-Touch Attribution in Higher Ed Marketing

A focus on marketing attribution has arrived in higher ed marketing.  With reams of data available on student prospects, there is now an abundance of metrics to sort, label, track and analyze. ROI can now be better achieved. However, while marketing decisions based entirely on data and analytics is the Holy Grail, is it the desired pathway in higher ed? Read more

Higher education and Snapchat

Teens and young adults use a variety of real-time, casual apps to communicate with one another. Brands are taking note and adapting their marketing efforts.

Snapchat, an instantaneous image messaging app that has been around since 2011, has particularly broken into mainstream global usage.*

Snapchat offers several advertisement functionalities. High-profile brands often publish sponsored content on Snapchat Discover, create their own temporary geotags, filters, and lenses, and post live content in certain cities and for events. However, these advertising avenues have expensive up-front costs. Ads range from around $50,000 to $700,000 per day.

Universities without a massive advertising budget may not feel justified in spending so much for a temporary promotion. Higher education marketers have scratched the surface of Snapchat’s capabilities, and only need some creativity to get their message out without a paid advertising approach. A number of higher education institutions already enjoy a variety of content to engage and connect the student body, but face a major geographical limitation in that they do not extend beyond campus borders.**

So how can universities proactively reach out to potential applicants and prospective students who are still in high school, but live outside the campus bubble?

Step 1

Download the Snapchat app and create a university account. The whole process takes only a few minutes and is free. Pick a relevant username, as it is your primary identifier. MIT uses mitstudents for a student-driven account, for example, while Colorado State University’s username is the all-encompassing ColoradoStateU.

Step 2

Promote the account on your university website, other social media platforms, and at outreach events to build an audience. Website and social media mentions will attract current students and university stakeholders, and can gain you a strong base of followers who are already affiliated with the school. Directly mention the account at outreach events to personally get in touch with potential applicants who are curious about what it’s like to be a university student, before they ever make the commitment to apply or enroll. Snapchat is an especially helpful tool for students who will not be able to make campus visits in-person, so connect with students where they are.

Step 3

Post stories regularly. Educational content like student and faculty research initiatives, award ceremonies, and even bits from innovative speakers tell high schoolers a lot about how they would grow academically at your university. Student organizations’ initiatives and university-sponsored social events and competitions represent bustling activities around campus, and appeal to both current and prospective students. University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, for example, regularly documents updates on its robotics projects on its story. Your marketing or communications team simply needs to attend and document events to reach your audience, and show them the community they can join and projects they can embark on as students.

Step 4

Hire reliable and engaging student ambassadors to periodically take over your Snapchat account. Give your ambassadors a password to access the account for a set duration of time, let them post creative content during their slot, and change the password again at the end of their session. Student-driven stories put high schoolers immediately in the shoes of a college student, and give information about your university in a genuine and relaxed atmosphere. Bonus points if students who are studying abroad pitch in!

Step 5

Promote outreach events on your story designed specifically for potential applicants and prospective students, and then publish content during the events. Even if the events are less frequent than your regular story content, they offer a more robust opportunity for students to engage with you. Maintaining a lighthearted, inclusive, and exciting tone is helpful for students to proactively join you in your specialized events.

Step 6

Host Q&A sessions during application periods and after students are accepted to your school. This is a great time for current students, faculty members, staff, or even alumni to interact with potential applicants and prospective students in a casual format. Ask users to submit questions to the account via Snaps and respond on your story. It sparks a real-time connection and simultaneously builds a collection of helpful information on your story that followers can continue to look at for the next day.

With a deep breath and a couple of small steps, you can leverage Snapchat to effectively engage student prospects outside your campus geography using one of their preferred methods of communication. Happy Snapping.

*A quick breakdown of how Snapchat accounts work: Users send Snaps — photos and videos that can be decorated with text, graphics, filters, and drawings and last up to 10 seconds before disappearing — to one or more friends. Users also post Snaps to their story, which last for 24 hours before disappearing and may be viewed by all friends. Younger demographics are especially attracted to the app for its visuals, creativity, informal tone, and fluid, impermanent content. With 100 million total daily users, 71% of Snapchatters are under 25 years old, and 60% of the high school class of 2015 uses the app daily.

**A number of institutions currently leverage university-oriented geotags, which graphically describe students’ locations and appear toward the bottom of users’ Snaps. Some universities even own campus stories, and encourage students to submit exciting tidbits of campus life to the campus’ communal story for Snapchatters in the area to see.

The Search for Higher Order Connection in Higher Education Marketing

Building enduring brands that drive affinity and loyalty with their target audiences can be an elusive challenge, but is always the sought-after goal. This goal is mighty but the same for brands in any category. It is to identify an emotional connection that is simple and will ring true about how your target will feel about your brand before, during and after engagement. Read more

Creating Valuable Content Marketing for Higher Education Recruitment

Developing valuable content that can work to generate brand awareness, demonstrate thought leadership, provide relevant information and produce leads for higher education programs can be an integral part of a marketing communications campaign. We’ve outlined some key steps in how to best leverage your content to work to achieve your recruitment goals.

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