What can you learn from over twenty one-on-ones with some of the best education marketers in North America? Find out in our list of the top ten tips from ten extraordinary podcast episodes! 

Almost six months ago, my co-host, Troy Singer, and I embarked on a journey launching The Higher Ed Marketer podcast. 

The idea was to broadcast the conversations we were having with education marketers, each one centered around where the industry is going. 

Our hope was that it would help our audiences find practical and strategic advice that would in turn help them move the needle forward in their own marketing efforts.

Now, with over just twenty podcast episodes featuring fascinating conversations with some of higher education’s brightest marketers, we decided to hand-pick ten things from ten extraordinary episodes that we believe every marketer should consider.

So without further ado, here they are starting at number ten and counting down…

10. Marketing alignment should be the end goal of leading data insights.

All good education marketers know they need to keep their ears to the ground. 

Without the right metrics in place, how would you know that you’re hitting your key performance indicators

However, capturing all of the right data won’t help much if you don’t have a continual conversation across departments to get the data into the hands that need it most across your organization.

Jeurell Smith, Institutional Data Analyst at Otterbein University, spoke about this early in episode three.

So [your analytics tools] are already tracking and giving you some sort of sense of what type of engagement they’re having – whether it’s websites, landing pages, emails, text messages. 

 

[You want to make] sure that the communication networks are there with those stakeholders like having data analysts there with the counselors, or the personal touch with the webmasters with all the digital content experts in that conversation flow so you can align all these skill sets together and have them moving in the same direction.

In other words, find ways to keep communication between your data analysts and front-end personnel flowing so that the data you’re collecting is relevant and helpful. 

Of course, this requires some planning and good old-fashioned teamwork.

9. The Two Core Elements of Marketing

Following up at number 9 is a perceptive insight by VP of Strategic Enrollment Management J.P. Spagnolo.

I truly believe marketing starts in a couple of core things: One is understanding your messages, but the messages are about building relationships.

Well-crafted messaging should help you strengthen the relationships you have with prospective students. 

They go hand-in-hand. 

In this extraordinary episode, J.P. goes even further in his explanation of how a multi-platform CRM can help you see if your messaging is strengthening relationships with your audience or not.

8. Social media marketing is more than surfing the web.

Jumping ahead to episode 11, Suzanne Petrusch, Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing at Presbyterian College, gave us a breakdown of their marketing team’s structure.

But while she was giving us this quick rundown, this key insight into social media marketing slipped out. 

Social media can take up such an enormous amount of time! It’s not just a matter of going out and capturing what’s happening that day. It really needs to be a strategic, “planful” exercise so that we have a full editorial calendar with it, but so that we also can be agile enough to pick up “of the moment” happenings on campus.

The tension between planned and spontaneous is key to social media marketing success.

7. Invest in video marketing.

Number seven is a little gem from episode 12. A picture is truly worth 1000 words.

Peter Ashley at Hanover College shares why you should invest in video marketing.

We needed more video resources. So we had a chance to hire a new videographer, but I was able to hire two videographers, because we had great final candidates. 

 

Within a few months, they’ve created more than 100 plus videos on campus life generating like 100,000 views very quickly! Everything from campus dining to Greek life to a series we’ve created called “Beyond the Classroom.” 

Those are great results for such a short time span! 

An investment in your video marketing strategy will go a long way.

6. Teamwork makes the dream work for donor stewardship.

In episode 13, Coleen Garland and Janet Marsden of Kenyon College walked us through how they stewarded an historic eight-figure gift that came in. 

We had undertaken a study with the group to really understand our constituency donor motivations. So we knew there was a risk when associating a gift of this magnitude that somehow our other donors would sit on the sidelines and applaud, but not necessarily see how it was impacting them. 

 

So that definitely informed our strategy. And fortunately, we had a group that that met, including Janet, every other week for about nine months, trying to think through carefully if this gift were to come to fruition the way we were hoping, how would we be prepared to roll it out [in our messaging].

What stood out to me is the amount of teamwork that went into the research and creation of the messaging strategy. 

All the hard work over a prolonged period of time, about nine months, with the various groups working out messaging ideas paid off in the long run. 

When the eight-figure gift did eventually come in, Kenyon didn’t lose their critical foundational giving donors.

5. Shift your video strategy to fit the messaging.

Coleen and Janet come in again at tip number 5 as they discussed the importance of pivoting your video strategy to match your messaging.

The piece that became very apparent was the importance of video and the increased use of video and photography.

 

As we’ve been talking about, “the place” is so powerful. When alumni see photos and images, it immediately brings them back. It tugs at an emotional connection to the place in ways that words alone can’t. 

 

So we did indeed increase our use of video for things like this big gift announcement. [When] we renamed our big athletic center after a very beloved and well-known alumnus, that was all done through the use of video. 

Video content is visceral and compelling by nature.

It also has the ability to juxtapose different concepts coherently – like the past and present of a college or university. 

Pivoting your video strategy to match your changing messaging needs can produce much better results than relying solely on copy and still images.

4. Successful marketing is enrollment-centered.

This tip proves that you don’t have to be a gigantic university with an enormous budget to recruit top-notch people to your marketing team. 

Dan Freeborn, Assistant Director of Marketing and Enrollment at Northern Michigan University, hit it out of the park with this all-important insight in episode 14.

I took what I knew from [my time in enrollment]. Understanding the main touch points that students had with the university throughout the enrollment process helped me build a shell of what our email communication was going to look like. [For example], looking at when they submit an application, they should probably get something initially confirming that we received their application and what their next step was. 

 

So building out content related to those specific action steps was my key point, and that allowed me then to rest assured that they were getting the main points delivered to them [with all] the main pieces of content they needed. 

When Dan took on this job, he had virtually no marketing experience. 

He simply started with what he knew – enrollment

Turns out, that was a brilliant move!

3. Be generous in your messaging.

Entering our top three tips, Julie Balog, Chief Marketing Officer at the University of Kentucky, shows how education marketing doesn’t have to be negative to be effective in episode 9.

We created a joint op-ed from our president and other university presidents. We also created some social media assets. We reached out to small town newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations across the state to really share [the message]: “College is possible for you! Start with filling out your FAFSA.”

 

At the end of the day, we just want students to understand that going to college can be transformational for them. And if they don’t come to UK, that’s okay. They just need to find a place where they can get that transformational experience.

What really impressed me in this conversation was the generous approach that the University of Kentucky took in its marketing. 

By aligning themselves with other university presidents in the messaging campaign, they showed that their primary concern was, in fact, the students themselves.

2. Public crises can be an opportunity, if handled correctly.

The unfortunate reality is that every college or university will someday have a public relations crisis happen. 

It’s also true that a crisis is defined differently for every unique institution. 

The important thing is to have a plan in place to handle these crisis situations when they occur.

After the institution that I was working for announced its closure, I was in conversation with the president of another institution. We were talking about what had happened, how it had happened and the response. Trying to empathize with me, the president said, “You know, I understand what you’re going through. Last year, the health department gave our dining hall a ‘B’ rating!” 

 

To [this president], that was a crisis. They had never really experienced that level of scrutiny before, and their students were upset. The families were upset, as they were paying for these dining plans. 

 

Now, for me and others of my colleagues who have perhaps experienced something that’s a little more intense, we would say that’s probably a [light issue]! But it is an issue, and you can manage it. 

1. Involve family members – human or otherwise – in your marketing strategy.

This last tip tops the chart for me. Butler University’s Director of Enrollment Marketing Kristi Lafree shows us how they intentionally target family members of prospective students with their marketing messaging. 

What’s so unique about this is that they are targeting non-human family members!

Butler University’s mascot marketing program has got to be one of the best long-running mascot marketing strategies in the country. 

Butler Blue IV is the star of Bulter U's marketing mascot program.

Butler Blue IV | Source: stories.butler.edu

In fact, they are now going on the fourth generation of living bulldog mascot marketing rockstars, Blue IV.

This will be the fifth year that we’ve done this campaign. We call it our “pet comm flow.” We send direct mail to the dogs and cats of admitted students with a little piece about their gear and a note reassuring them that “Blue” is going to look after their human and have their human’s back and be there for anything they may need at Butler. 

 

I think the piece that makes it most successful is that message we’re subtly sending in that piece: “We’ve got their back.” 

 

They’re going to find a family at Butler and a community that high schoolers are often looking for. That really resonates with the Butler way with who we are as an institution. We have a lot of fun with it, and it’s by far one of our favorite or favorite campaigns to execute!

You know you’ve struck marketing gold when you’ve got an ongoing campaign that resonates with your audience and your team has a blast doing it at the same time. 

Don’t want to miss a future episode?

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