One amazing way to maximize your brand authenticity is to begin a student ambassador program.
Authenticity, of course, is one of the most prized values of Gen Z prospective students.
While they’re still very young, it looks like authenticity will still be in vogue as Gen Alpha begins to receive your marketing communications.
Since we can see how valuable authentic-feeling content is going to be for decades to come, starting a student ambassador program now is a good, long-term investment for any higher ed marketing strategy.
What is a student ambassador program?
Ambassador programs bring two important groups together:
- Current students and
- Prospective students.
A student ambassador program is a plan for how your enrollment marketing teams can encourage, train, and mobilize current students to develop organic relationships with prospective students.
By building relationships with prospective students, current students can help them make the right decision when it comes to enrolling at your school.
Here we start with our checklist on how to kick-start your student ambassador program!
Choose your student ambassadors.
Not every student will be a good candidate for your student ambassador program.
It’s important to think carefully first about the students you’ll invite to your team.
Look for students who show a real affinity or love for the mission of your institution.
They should be students who instinctively get what your school is all about.
Of course, they may not have your eloquence or sophisticated marketing language to convey what your brand is all about – but that’s what makes them so valuable!
When they try to put into words, videos, graphics, or photos how they see your brand, it will naturally come across in a mostly positive light because that’s how they really feel.
I also recommend that you choose students who…
- Are active in athletics, student organizations, study abroad programs and other opportunities prospects might be interested in.
- Have experienced support from faculty and/or staff that has helped them grow academically, socially, emotionally, etc.
- Have strong leadership qualities such as communication skills, infectious enthusiasm, an inclusive spirit, and an interest in service.
- Show professionalism in their approach to work, volunteering and academics, demonstrating determination to meet goals.
Designate tasks for your student ambassadors.
Student ambassadors can do many different enrollment or admissions tasks. Think of them as volunteer support staff for your admissions department.
You can train student ambassadors to:
- Write blog posts and post content on social media
- Contact prospects by text or email
- Lead or co-facilitate campus tours and other events
- Participate in a Q&A panel for prospects and their families
- Nurture leads by keeping in touch with applicants throughout the enrollment process
- Host an applicant on a student shadow day
As you can see, a student ambassador program not only can help you create authentic content, it can help your enrollment staff handle an already crazy workload!
Train student ambassadors in your brand guidelines.
While we want organic relationships and authentic content, you also need to protect your brand.
Student ambassadors should have at least an introductory training in your brand guidelines.
We all want authenticity. But it does need a little direction.
This is why I recommend training the students you choose to be your ambassadors in your most important brand talking points.
While I don’t think they should use these talking points in the content they create (unless they would naturally do so anyway), I think being aware of them helps the student to know how you are crafting your official messaging for the brand.
To help with this, make sure you have an internal messaging strategy that is clear and consistent.
Leverage any opportunity in general assemblies, chapel services, and live events to talk about your education brand to your current students from the stage.
Doing this can help your student ambassadors see how you personally promote the mission of the school.
Encourage executive leadership to use brand language when addressing the student body.
When you all speak the same messaging about the mission, your student ambassadors will more easily pick up on how you want the brand to be communicated.
Use student ambassador program tools like Unibuddy.
Over time, I’ve become a real fan of Unibuddy, but there may be other platforms out there that make creating connections between student ambassadors and prospective students manageable.
Basically, platforms like Unibuddy become the central dashboard for your student ambassadors.
Here they have their content assignments tasked out to them like writing blogs or creating video content.
When a student ambassador publishes content from Unibuddy, they are attributed to as authors.
After consuming the content, if a prospective student wants to connect to the author of the content, they can do so directly through Unibuddy.
Unibuddy also gives the prospective student a digital directory where they get to choose which student ambassador they wish to connect to.
They can search for student ambassadors based on search criteria like…
- Area of study
- Student life activity
The prospect can then fill out a request to chat form, which can be integrated into your CRM for automatic lead capture.
After filling out the chat form, the student ambassador receives the request directly and can begin to talk with the prospective student.
Whether you use Unibuddy or something else, digital platforms like these facilitate the organic relationships you’re trying to create.
My final thought on how to start your student ambassador program is simple.
It’s going to take time to get things up and running – to find the right student ambassadors, to get them trained, and to get your CRM systems in place.
Even if you haven’t got it all figured out, I recommend getting started on a simple program launch plan.
There’s so much that you simply can’t plan out – so don’t sweat the stuff you can’t predict.
Bottom line: authentic content and interactions between prospective students and student ambassadors can really boost your enrollment marketing success.
If you need guidance or help with branding or any other aspect of your education marketing efforts, feel free to reach out.
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