Some of the most insightful and inspiring experts in higher education marketing graced us with their presence on the Higher Ed Marketing podcast in 2021.
As my co-host Troy Singer of ThinkPatented and I look forward to the new year, we’re looking back on some of our most popular episodes.
We spoke with incredible movers and shakers about storytelling, equity and inclusion, creating a sense of connection with future and current students, campus tours, and a whole lot more.
Haven’t had a chance to tune in yet? This holiday season is a great opportunity to catch up!
Check out all our episodes to date over on the podcast page.
8 Popular Higher Education Marketing Topics from the Podcast in 2021
To be clear, every episode of the HEM podcast this year has been wonderful. It’s been a privilege interviewing professionals and colleagues I hold in the highest esteem.
So these are not the “best” episodes, because that would mean the rest didn’t “make the cut.”
No, these are just a few examples of the many amazing conversations Troy and I have had with guests this year.
1. Driving Affinity Through Innovative Marketing at Universities
The Covid-19 pandemic sent shockwaves throughout higher ed, so it’s no wonder that one of our most popular episodes was about Purdue’s decision to reopen in the fall of 2020.
As Senior VP of Marketing & Communications Ethan Braden explained, it was a situation where creating a sense of affinity among all stakeholders around a common cause was paramount.
That common cause? President Mitch Daniels’ position that failing to open would be an “unacceptable breach of duty.” And the belief that it could be done safely.
Read and hear more about the #ProtectPurdue campaign, here.
2. 5 Steps of Storytelling
Human beings are wired to think and learn in terms of stories, so it’s no wonder why storytelling is somewhat of a holy grail in marketing.
Few understand the power of storytelling in higher education marketing better than Notre Dame’s Associate VP for Development Jim Small.
In one of our most-heard episodes, Jim lays out the strategy he uses to move donors—a strategy that absolutely applies to enrollment, too—with storytelling.
Read and hear about Audience, Walk-away, Channels, Goals, and Story-building, here.
3. How to Improve Your Institution’s Inclusion Marketing
Inclusion is a big word. It’s not a box you can ever fully check off. Instead, it’s an area in which we should all be striving to grow.
Undergraduate Enrollment and Youth Marketing Strategist Courtney Cannon certainly expanded my thinking about how to be more inclusive in marketing.
We’re all influenced (and somewhat limited) by our own experiences. What communities are we failing to reach because of our blind spots? Our lack of understanding?
For me, the needs of the deaf community, e.g. video and audio captioning, was one area I needed to learn more about.
What are those underserved groups that you need to make more of an effort to reach?
Read, hear, or watch more about Courtney’s tips for inclusion marketing, here.
4. Creating an Adaptable Brand Promise in the Age of Social Media
It’s challenging enough to rebrand a university under “normal” circumstances.
Research, focus groups, administrator engagement—a lot of work goes into developing a brand identity that resonates with all stakeholders.
A global pandemic adds a whole new level of urgency and complexity. It forces you to adapt the brand promise for all audiences and unprecedented circumstances to boot.
VP of Marketing & Communications Deedie Dowdle was one of many higher education marketing leaders who faced this challenge.
In the fall of 2020, her team relaunched the #GoldWithin campaign with the confidence that it was still relevant, authentic, and powerful enough to carry them through a season of crisis.
Read and hear more about how DePauw built its successful, adaptable brand, here.
5. Messaging for the Individual: How Data Can Help You Create Engaging Stories
Storytelling was definitely a hot topic this year, which came up a lot in the podcast. (And I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.)
VP of Enrollment Management Christine Harper and Chief Marketing Officer Julie Balog are serious about answering the question: What stories should we be telling?
They spend a lot of time on that first step of Jim Small’s approach (see #2 above): Audience.
Christine and Julie leverage data to help them understand who their prospects are. They take the time to segment the audience so they can tell stories that matter to each.
Read and hear more about stories for segments like first-generation students, here.
6. More Than Just Words: How Your Marketing Strategy Can Promote Equity
Speaking of first-generation college students, we know they often come from low-income families and face significant barriers to education.
Your institution likely has programs to help. But it takes a campus culture that reflects a genuine interest in promoting equity and inclusion to reach and attract these students.
VP of Enrollment and Marketing Peter Ashley is taking on that challenge.
He’s part of a leadership team developing programs that amplify student voices and promote dialogue around issues of diversity and inclusion.
Hanover College is also working to create a more equitable campus by stepping up need-based financial aid. They’re actively recruiting first-gen students and diverse staff as well.
Read and hear more about Hanover College’s efforts to promote equity, here.
7. How to Include Donor Stories in Your Marketing
Advancement marketing often feels a lot more like an art than a science.
What motivates a person to give? That’s a complex question with many factors to consider. But if you boil it down to one thing, it’s the quality of the relationship between donor and institution.
VP of Communications Janet Marsden and VP for Advancement Colleen Garland came on the show to explain that this relationship is at the center of their storytelling.
Donor and college are partners, working together toward a shared vision. Neither is a hero, nor a saint. Just dedicated believers in the mission.
It’s this role of a partner that donors want to play—a role in which one donor gave $100M to support an upcoming student housing project!
Read and hear more tips on storytelling in advancement marketing, here.
8. Dog Tours & TikTok Sessions: Getting Creative with College Tours
Want some inspiration for ways to get prospective students on your campus? Our chat with Director of Undergraduate Admission Collin Palmer is a great place to start.
Like, how about offering campus tours in the evening, kicking them off outside with the sunset as a beautiful backdrop, and plenty of food trucks to peruse?
Or, since over 68 million households in the U.S. have a dog, what about inviting their owners to bring them along for the tour?
Collin thinks of every component of the tour as a photo op, which is brilliant.
Not only are you encouraging prospects to make the visit memorable, you know they’ll share videos and photos on social media, too. They’ll be brand ambassadors even before enrolling!
Read and hear more college tour tips from the University of Toledo, here.
Want more higher education marketing tips? Listen here!
We’re posting new episodes of the Higher Education Marketer just about every week, with more fantastic guests on the way in 2022.
Interested in being a guest on the show yourself? Let me know. Troy and I are always interested in hearing new perspectives, tips, and stories, and whatever you think would enrich our industry.
And as always, if you’re interested in a free consultation to discuss your higher ed marketing needs in the coming year, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Until I hear from you, happy holidays from all of us at Caylor Solutions!
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