Violent shootings across the U.S. mean that marketing and campus security have to work together to keep students safe. Here’s why.

In just one recent weekend, violent shootings erupted in a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas and a bar in Dayton, Ohio. In these two incidents, over thirty people died.

These are just a couple of incidents in a longer string of public shootings that have occurred this year (2019). Wikipedia keeps a list of mass shootings in the United States, and as of July 2019, the death toll is at 246 with 979 wounded. 

That’s 1,225 victims of mass shootings… all in one year.

Out of the 248 mass shootings listed here, only two occurred on school campuses. 

Yet even with these statistics showing that schools are relatively safe, there is mounting concern among students and parents about safety on school campuses. 

As I see it, there are two objectives for you and me as education marketers in light of these recent tragedies:

  1. Help keep every student safe on campus.
  2. Raise awareness of how safe the campus is so that families feel safe.

Keep students safe. Keep students and families feeling safe. Both are incredibly important.

Working with Campus Security

It might be strange to talk about campus security and marketing in the same blog post, but there are places where the two meet. 

So, how does marketing help keep students safe? Surprisingly, in a lot more ways than you’d think. 

Now, I need to say right up front that I am not a security professional. But I am an education marketer with a college-age son and three younger children in public schools. 

Believe me, I think a lot about these things… just like every parent does. 

For me, campus security isn’t just a secondary concern. It’s a personal one.

That said, let’s go to the experts. 

A psychologist and sociologist have been conducting an insightful study on mass shooters as a part of a National Institute of Justice grant, and what they share in this article shows there’s a place for good marketing to contribute to student safety.

Campus Security Begins with Stress Management

In their article, Jillian Peterson and James Densley lay out some of their findings from their analysis on mass shootings in the United States since 1966. 

Their analysis reveals certain characteristics that seem to repeat themselves almost predictably. 

 “…more than 70% of campus shootings took place at the end of the school year – in April, May or June – a time that students report as being the most stressed.

Indeed, April stands out as a particularly deadly time of the year when it comes to campus mass shootings – the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 32 lives, and the 2012 Oikos University shooting in Oakland, California, that killed seven and wounded three, both happened in April.”

At the risk of being over-simplistic, stress is an underlying factor in mass shootings on campus. 

You probably know firsthand what the stress of midterms and finals feels like. Everyone deals with it in their own way.

Thank God most students have developed healthy ways to manage stress, but these mass shootings reveal that there are some who just don’t come equipped to handle massive loads of pressure. 

This is where education marketers can help make a difference. 

Encouraging Campaigns

Consider launching stress management campaigns during midterms and finals weeks. 

I’m not talking about coddling overly sensitive students

We’re talking about giving healthy doses of encouragement during stressful moments where everyone could use a reassuring smile and the calming assurance that everything’s going to be okay.

Taking a multi-channel approach with email, social media, and environmental marketing campaigns would be exceptionally effective for this. 

Not sold on this idea? 

Consider the massive popularity of the wartime poster produced by the British Government in 1939. 

The British war time ad is a good example of how marketing can help campus security.

“Keep Calm and Carry On” was an encouragement campaign designed to keep the British people’s morale up during an unbelievably stressful time.

Everyone needs encouragement during stressful times. 

This goes especially for those students who struggle with mental health issues or who don’t have a strong social support system. 

As education marketers, we can support  campus security’s efforts to keep students safe by administering shots of encouragement and levity during high-stress periods on our campuses.

Campus Security and Mental Health Are Connected

Another link between the mass shootings on campuses in this study shows that almost every one of the mass shooters dealt with some kind of mental health problem.

“All of the university mass shooters in our study were suicidal prior to the shooting and had a history of mental illness.”

It’s not easy to see how this has anything to do with education marketing but stay with me here. 

“Large universities need strategies to reach out and connect with vulnerable students.”

Education marketers can play an effective role in helping students connect with whatever mental health resources your campus has available. 

Keeping students abreast of the numerous services available to them is one of the unending challenges of education marketing.

But when it comes to mental health, stress, and campus security, it becomes even more important that education marketers go the extra mile to show students where to go when they are experiencing…

  • Uncontrollable Anxiety
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Dark or Deviant Feelings
  • Intense, Unnatural Pressure to Perform

So consider launching public service announcements showing students where to go when they’re suffering mentally or emotionally.

Publish campaigns that help destigmatize mental health problems. 

For example, depression is a rampant mental problem in the United States. Students struggling with depression shouldn’t feel ashamed to seek help. 

A campus marketing campaign can help students feel good about seeking help rather than stuffing it all inside.

Campus Security as a Marketing Tool

Education marketers should proudly announce the hard work of their campus security professionals to prospective students and their families. 

  • Has your administration invested in a new campus surveillance system?
  • Have you installed new panic buttons across campus? 
  • Are your campus security personnel hosting personal safety courses or seminars?
  • Does your campus security offer cross-campus rides for single students late at night?

Touch base with your campus security team to hear about what they’re doing to keep students safe. Then, get the news out across all of your marketing channels.

Also, consider teaming up with campus security and designate a month or week of the year to campus security awareness. 

Make sure that you market the event to both students and parents so that you can build brand trust by being the campus where students are safe.

I know campus security isn’t really in your job description. 

But safety is everyone’s concern.

Plus, campus security is an incredibly useful marketing tool to motivate parents to bring their students to your school.

If you have any questions, or would like some help planning or executing a future marketing initiative, get in touch. We’re here to help, and there is no obligation.


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Featured image by Adam Calaitzis via Adobe Stock
“Keep Calm and Carry On” image created by United Kingdom Government (1939) – public domain