“Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time.” — Elon Musk
Brand perception can be a murky subject.
Not to be conflated with brand awareness, how familiar people are with your school, brand perception is how your intended audiences feel about your school.
From your mission statement to the classroom experience, your students, alumni, faculty, and other interested parties probably have plenty to say about their feelings toward your institution.Your higher ed marketing team can pursue several avenues to assess brand perception. Yet, perhaps the most tried and true (and convenient) method is to poll your audiences with a survey.
Surveys are a quick method to compile a lot of different viewpoints, and many survey systems let you visualize the data you gather. Also, thanks to services like SurveyMonkey, they’re simpler and more affordable than ever.
Once you pick out your survey vehicle, you need to consider what questions you’ll use to fuel it.
Of course, you’ll want to tailor your survey questions to your school’s audiences, but here are a few to get you started.
1. How Did You Hear About Us?
I made a point to distinguish brand awareness from brand perception earlier, but that doesn’t mean the two are mutually exclusive. After all, your audience can’t have an opinion on something if they know nothing about it!
Surveys are an excellent opportunity to measure the effectiveness of your school’s brand awareness campaigns.
Give them a list of specific channels your marketing team has utilized in the past so you can get a pulse on their performance.
You can also branch out with some open-ended questions to get more fine-tuned responses:
- What positive or negative things have you heard about our school?
- Would you consider our school to be a leader in “X”? Why or why not?
- Were you aware that our school offers “X”?
2. Would You Recommend Our School to Friends or Family?
Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty as we explore the hearts and minds of your target audience.
A lot of factors play into building up education brand loyalty. It’s a long-term strategy that every member of your staff, faculty, and even student body must work on together.
Every moment your students experience with your school is part of a bigger story. Each encounter, for better or worse, will determine how they feel about you once that chapter of their life is closed.
A confident recommendation to a loved one, or lack thereof, is a good indicator of how your school’s brand is performing among current students and alumni.
Again, don’t be afraid to tack on an open-ended follow-up so they can elaborate.
3. What Have You Heard About Our Competitors?
By inquiring about the brand perception of other regional schools, you can contrast your enrollment marketing strategy and its performance with your contemporaries.
You should gauge your competitors for several reasons, but a survey will also allow you to collect vital demographic data.
Of course, you don’t want to take a black-and-white approach by labeling other schools as “the competition.” Instead, simply list however many schools you deem appropriate and ask your audience’s thoughts about them, for good or bad.
Perhaps an overwhelming number of engineering students at your school also considered “The Big University of Engineering” before coming to your institution.
Consider following up with these questions:
- What attracted you to “The Big University of Engineering”?
- Where did you hear about them?
- Why did you choose to enroll with us?
Surveys can give you a better grasp of whose content marketing you should pay attention to and in which digital channels you should concert your efforts.
4. Which of the Following Values Do You Associate With Us?
Are you attracting students who are mission-fit for your school?
Your school’s vision and mission statement can make or break your brand perception if you convey a muddled message to your audience.Click to tweet
By providing your survey recipients with a checklist of the values your school wants to exhibit, you can determine the effectiveness of your branding’s communications flow.
Mixed feedback signifies that you’re not projecting a clear, authentic portrayal of your brand.
5. What Would You Like to See Us Do Better?
Brand perception, no matter how positive, always has room for improvement.
Toward the end of your survey, give your audience a chance to provide constructive feedback on your school’s processes, programs, or messaging.
The possibilities are practically endless, so give them a few talking points to consider:
- Financial aid assistance
- Course selection
- Volunteer opportunities
- Athletic programs
- Academic advising
- Social awareness
- Technology and innovation
- Faculty accessibility
By proactively addressing your audience’s concerns, you’ll show them that your school cares about living out its values.
Brand Perception Bonus: Give Them a Reason to Care
Sending these surveys out to the appropriate mailing lists is easy. However, getting your audience to complete them is a different matter altogether.
Filling out a survey may take very little time, but so does sitting through a commercial.
About 45 percent of survey takers are willing to spend up to 5 minutes filling out a survey.
However, they will only take time out of their day to reply to a marketing email if they have a vested interest, so you need a hook to get your audience to complete the survey.
Here are a few tips to achieve the best results:
- Make your audience feel appreciated: Be clear that you have a genuine interest in the survey taker’s thoughts and feelings about your school and that their opinion matters!
- Give them an incentive: Many recipients will need extra motivation, so budget for small gift cards or raffle entries to encourage more responses.
- Use screening questions: Not every question will apply to each person. Instead of wasting their time with irrelevant topics, give a “Does not apply” option so they can move on.
Brand Perception Feedback Can Be a Wakeup Call
Whenever you ask for authentic reactions about your school’s brand perception, be prepared to see some hard-hitting responses.
If you do see negative answers, that’s okay! It’s a positive sign if you’re learning about poor brand opinions for the first time because now you know what you’re facing.
With the inside track on your audience’s expectations, you’ll be able to work toward renewing confidence in your school’s brand.
If you think your brand perception could use a makeover, we’re here to help!
Market More. Spend Less.
Set yourself free from your shrinking marketing budget with my popular ebook Marketing on a Shoestring Budget! This ebook is jammed with practical ways to produce high-quality marketing on the cheap.
Inside, I’ll show you proven marketing tactics like…
- How to leverage low-cost technologies to reach your target market,
- How to craft a content marketing strategy on a bare-bones budget,
- The number one thing your website needs to do,
- The key to getting free, organic traffic to your website, and more.
No hype. No pie in the sky. Just real solutions for getting the job done with the budget you’ve got.
Featured image by batjaket via Adobe Stock