Is the word “podcast” Greek to you? Don’t be embarrassed. With so many examples of podcasts out there that have nothing to do with enrollment marketing, the subject may seem irrelevant.
But even though the internet-enabled medium has been made famous through true crime, sensationalist talk show hosts and political pundits, podcasts can also be powerful tools for education.
This creates an exciting opportunity for enrollment marketers like you.
Why Colleges Have Podcasts
Colleges are in the relationship-building business. A trustworthy voice is an effective tool for admissions teams, especially when that voice is answering your prospects’ burning questions.
Often, those questions have to do with the admissions process (as is the case at Yale):
- What does the process look like?
- How do you ensure that it’s fair?
- Are the rumors I’ve heard about (insert admissions scandal) true?
Other times, they’re more general. Prospects and their parents want authentic, practical advice, the truth about life on campus, perspectives from “real” people.
Voices can lend that authenticity to content in ways that text alone can’t.
The practicality of podcasts is also attractive. An audio show is less difficult to produce than a full-blown video series, which would be a great tool for connection but may be cost prohibitive. (Don’t discount video entirely, though.)
Before we get into some examples of podcasts to inspire you, let’s go over some best practices.
A Few Tips on How to Pull Off a Great Podcast
Writing for Inside Higher Ed, Duke University communications specialist Jenna Spinelle put together a great article with tips on getting started with podcasting. It’s geared toward faculty, but I think the advice is fairly universal.
Here’s a quick summary:
Once you’ve established the concept of your podcast, the first step in making it happen is generating episode ideas and putting them into an editorial calendar. Frequency could be monthly, weekly, whatever you can handle. Just be consistent.
“Pick a schedule and stick to it. This will help establish your podcast in your listeners’ routines and keep you motivated to continue working on it.”
Add Some Personality
If you’ve ever fallen asleep during a lecture, you know exactly what you don’t want your podcast to sound like. Listening to some of the examples of podcasts provided below will give you a good idea of how hosts bring their personality to the table to create connection.
“As [an admissions counselor], you have something to offer the world. Let your work speak for itself, but don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through along with it.”
Spinelle advises the faculty of big schools to utilize the communications department as a resource. My advice to you, the communications department of what might be a much smaller school, is to take the time to create a strong podcast promotion strategy and get outside help if you need it.
Think through not just where you’re publishing, but how you’ll utilize social media, email and other digital channels to push this content out to internal and external audiences.
“If a podcast is released in iTunes, will anyone hear it? Not if you don’t tell them it’s there.”
But first, you have to decide exactly what your podcast is going to be about. Let’s get some inspiration from other admissions podcasters.
Examples of Podcasts By Admissions Pros
The first several are examples of podcasts put out by enrollment marketing and admissions professionals working for the institutions who publish the show.
1. Inside the Yale Admissions Office
As mentioned above, Yale’s podcast is as much about public relations as it is about driving enrollment. In the wake of the “Varsity Blues” scandal, involving the bribery of officials at top colleges – in Yale’s case, its women’s soccer coach – they were keen to provide a new level of transparency into the admissions process.
The podcast helps build confidence in the fairness of the process by taking listeners through application readings, committee meetings, discussions about application essays, etc.
2. Florida State University’s “The More You Nole”
The content in FSU’s podcast is far more broad, aiming to capture an authentic look at college life from the perspectives of students, faculty and staff. I like the catchy title, too. In case you don’t get it, it’s a pun based on an abbreviation of the FSU Seminoles and the old NBC PSAs “The More You Know,” which any Gen X parent is sure to recognize.
3. Providence College Podcast
A fairly small Catholic and Dominican college in Rhode Island, the admissions team at Providence College has a firm idea of who they are and whom they serve. Through in-depth conversations with members of the Friar Family, their podcast helps deepen a sense of affinity for those prospects who identify with them culturally.
4. Bucknell University’s College Admissions Insider
Bucknell’s podcast is similar to Yale’s in its intention, but Bucknell is a very different university. It’s much smaller and outside the Ivy League. The advice is more general, aimed at prospects who want tips for their college search rather than tips for getting into one school in particular. This is a great approach for smaller schools who want to introduce themselves to prospects and build trust.
5. All Access: Med School Admissions
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine’s podcast is a great example of niche content that serves its target audience well while promoting the overall university brand. Through conversations with colleagues at medical schools across the U.S., Case is simultaneously providing a wealth of useful tips to applicants, providing thought leadership among its peers and strengthening the university’s overall profile as a strong STEAM school.
6. Reframe from Miami University
This podcast is among the most diverse in content scope you’ll find. Over the last few years, they’ve covered a wide variety of topics designed mostly to appeal to educators, but in some cases to parents and even young students. This is a great long-term strategy: appeal to the K-12 influencers and occasionally include content they’re likely to share with students. This keeps your institution top of mind for students as they approach college application season.
7. K-8 Collaborative
In the category of grade school podcasts, K-8 Collaborative from Baker Demonstration School in Chicago is a standout. The focus of the content is progressive education, presented as a movement that spans more than a century and as a modern, practical approach to pedagogy. It is extremely well-targeted to its core audience: savvy, educated parents looking for guidance on how to prepare their children for success in the 21st century.
The following are examples of podcasts by admissions experts who are publishing their shows independently, without institutional affiliation.
8. Inside the Admissions Office: Advice from Former Admissions Officers
It’s a good idea to get inspiration from voices who can provide the “unvarnished truth” as former insiders. Try to emulate their transparency. This podcast from InGenius Prep captures that perspective from professionals who have worked at high-profile universities across the country.
9. College Essay Guy
As I mentioned above, personality matters. In the College Essay Guy podcast, Ethan Sawyer is the personality that delivers practical advice through interviews with admissions experts. His goal is to help students write good essays, prep for tests, apply for financial aid, etc. The individual who represents your institution has the power to build relationships by becoming that trusted helper.
10. SAT Hacks & College Admissions
This podcast by Diana Wang, former admissions officer at UC Berkeley, delivers highly practical advice that feels like the unlocking of industry secrets. (In the language of your prospects, “hacks.”) Any time you can make your audience feel like they’re getting information that is exclusive, that gives them an edge, you’re doing something right.
11. The Premed Years
Like All Access above, another great example of niche subject matter (which is also for medical students) is this podcast from MD and surgeon Dr. Ryan Gray. This is a great example of someone prospects hope to emulate who is giving back. Gray is a sort of universal premed admissions advisor with an authoritative, friendly voice. A great approach for targeted messaging.
12. Demystifying College Admissions
Admissions consultant Julie Kim hosts this podcast geared toward high school students – and, by extension, their parents – who are serious about getting into a top-tier or Ivy League school. Her approach to developing content that is part self-help, part lead generator, is an excellent study in balancing your own goals of educating and attracting prospects.
13. The Crush
Again, the maximum amount of transparency you can provide is key to making your podcast feel authentic to your prospects. One of the best examples to emulate is Davin Sweeney’s “The Crush,” which likens the attraction to, and fear of, college to an anxious infatuation. It’s a dose of reality that helps prospects better understand what they’re getting into (without scaring them off).
14. Getting In: A College Coach Conversation
Elizabeth Heaton, another former admissions officer, gives similar advice in her podcast as other independent voices listed above. What stands out to me is her episode frequency. Weekly, roughly 50-minute episodes – throughout the fall of 2020, as I’m writing this – give high school seniors and their parents plenty to think about as they approach application season.
I hope these examples of podcasts get your creative juices flowing and encourage you to give this a try yourself.
Like I said, there is so much potential in the power of podcasts to create a sense of connection with your audience through the human voice. I hope you’ll consider getting on board.
But I don’t expect you to simply hit the ground running.
There’s a lot to think about with podcast development, from content writing to recording best practices and distribution. If you need help, please let me know. My team and I will be excited to work with you on your new, enrollment-driving podcast!
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