In a digital space consumed by analytics, it can be easy to forget the old-school basics of higher ed marketing.
The collegiate experience is arguably the most significant period in school attendees’ lives. Is that because they were in awe of their universities’ data aggregation?
Of course not.
After your students move on, they won’t be talking about your school’s record enrollment during their first year or your high graduation rate.
They’ll share stories about their favorite homecoming or tell their children why their alma maters have the most fun rituals.
History, culture, ceremony – you can’t capture these intangibles in numbers. Instead, you paint a picture of your school’s spirit by telling a story.
Certainly, big data will always be a component of your enrollment marketing strategy. But storytelling marketing should be a key driver in spreading brand awareness for your school.
Giving prospective students insight into your institution’s ethos and traditions will provide them with an emotional connection.Click to tweet
So, here are three ways you can capture stories of your school’s spirit to incorporate into your marketing content.
1. Student Testimonials with Feeling
The first step to brand storytelling is recognizing your audience and identifying what speaks to them. And great storytelling reaches your audience on an emotional level.
Testimonials are an excellent way for students to give authentic feedback about their experience with your school. They also provide first-hand credibility to the stories your marketing team is trying to build on.
You may think asking your students about their campus experiences is a no-brainer.
But are you asking the right questions?
I’ve read many testimonials that focus exclusively on the academic opportunities those students have taken advantage of at their institutions.
Of course, marketing your students’ academic success stories is also important. However, these schools are missing a golden opportunity to allow students to express how they feel about their campus life.
Your students’ emotions are strongly tied to school spirit, so allow them to expand on that.
For example, featured on the ‘Student Life’ page for the University of Wisconsin-Madison website is this testimonial from one of the university’s students:
“I wanted to go to a big school with plenty of offerings and clubs to establish Madison as my community. Madison has not fallen short. The people I have met in those organizations have made Madison feel like a home.” – Sofia Vandersluis, School of Education student
Community; Home – sentiments like these exude pride and loyalty in a school.
Consider promoting your students to put their school spirit into words as Sofia did.
2) Short-Form Video in the Wild
Video marketing is at the forefront of higher ed content.
Social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels have made reaching your audience through video simpler than ever – and showing off your school’s spirit is no exception.
For example, Harvard University has one of the most popular higher ed accounts on TikTok.
They posted a fun clip of two first-year students, David and Jeremiah, giving their review of one of the restaurants on campus:
One of Harvard students go to spots: El Jefe’s Taqueria #campuslife #harvardcollege #food #fyp
This video is a creative way to get students involved in marketing content. But, more importantly, it gives prospective students a glimpse of their peers celebrating a campus landmark.
Of course, Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that putting school spirit in video marketing isn’t for smaller schools, either.
Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, NC, also has a popular TikTok account (they almost have as many followers as Harvard!)
Like many community colleges, Cape Fear has several programs dedicated to the trades. Here’s a video they posted earlier this year appreciating their future linemen:
(Curious how you can make video marketing work for you at a smaller school? Listen to this Higher Ed Marketer podcast episode to learn more!)
Remember, you don’t need ticker-tape parades and pep rallies to highlight school spirit in your content.
You only need to be wherever your students enjoy the fruits of their collegiate life.
Some other opportunities you might consider for your school spirit video content are:
- Volunteer Days
- Culture Festivals
- Graduation Prep
- Mascot Skits
- Club of the Week
- Pregame Tailgating
Any story that features your students’ sense of community and participation is the essence of school spirit.
And the perfect tool for capturing those moments is right in your hand.
3) Traditions in the Spotlight
What makes your school unique?
If your school has a memorable tradition, it was likely one of the first things that came to mind.
As a staple of school spirit, traditions are the perfect muse for storytelling. They’re also great for building brand loyalty for your future alumni.
Consider Dragon Day at Cornell University, for example.
In a tradition spanning a century, Cornell’s architecture students build a giant dragon of their design. Then, they lead the dragon through a parade, accompanied by students in costume. The ceremony ends in Cornell’s historic Arts Quad, where the dragon does “battle” with a phoenix built by the school’s engineering students.
This annual tradition has become an excellent selling point for Cornell, enticing students to their architecture and engineering programs.
Your school’s traditions may not be as ambitious as building a giant mechanical monster – but they don’t have to be!
They will speak to prospective students who are mission-fit for your school.
Here are some broad examples of traditions your students may already participate in that you can work into your marketing content:
- Sports Rivalries
- Charity Events
- Holiday Specials
- Outdoor Activities
- Community Outreach
- Club Projects
- Block Parties
Whatever your trademark traditions, they can be an excellent source of brand storytelling for your school.
A Student-Driven ExperienceYou’ll cultivate a solid emotional connection with prospective students by injecting school spirit into your higher ed marketing content.
And you’ll likely tug at the heartstrings of parents and alumni who have fond memories of their time at your school, as well.
After all, you’re not just upselling your recruits’ post-grad potential – you’re selling an experience.
For more help and ideas on how you can find stories about school spirit for your school’s content, contact us today!
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