Think video marketing isn’t for you because of your school’s small size? Then listen to this fascinating conversation with Suzanne Petrusch of Presbyterian College.
Small to medium-sized colleges, a lot of them private, all experience the challenge of trying to differentiate from public and other private schools.
This challenge makes it even more critical for colleges to align their marketing in a way that can impact the major driver of institutional revenue and growth – enrollment.
In our chat with Suzanne Petrusch, Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing at Presbyterian College (PC), Troy Singer and I learned how PC is making it all work.
But even if you’re not a small to medium-sized college, I highly recommend this conversation.
The insights Suzanne shows us about her central marketing team, her “satellite marketing pod,” and how they do video marketing are valuable for institutions of all sizes who’re trying to better integrate their marketing and enrollment efforts.
Differentiating Your School
As we’ve discussed in other articles, your biggest competitive advantage is you!
Your institution’s unique culture, campus, and programs are the strongest weapon in your marketing arsenal.
It’s important to lean into what differentiates you from other institutions when you’re as small as Presbyterian College.
PC is a very small institution. We have almost 1,300 total students, approximately 1,000 of whom are undergraduates. And so we are the smallest division one school with a football program in the whole country. That makes us stand out in a different way.
But it also puts some challenges in front of us. We’re very much focused on the liberal arts, the personal attention delivered by the faculty, and the student experience.
Suzanne shares more in our podcast conversation how Presbyterian College is trying to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
One of the primary channels they’re using to do so is video marketing.
Before we got there, though, we talked about how they organize their marketing teams.
The PC Central Marketing Team
For Suzanne, it was critical that Presbyterian College aligned their marketing efforts between all of the various siloes in the school.
One way she did that was by clarifying the role of the PC central marketing team and how it ties in with the admissions side.
Marketing reported to enrollment at one point in time. Then it went through a move, that I would say is fairly common, and was situated in advancement. We made that shift again in 2016, so that I would have the opportunity to take a look at Central marketing, and how it really fits within the context of all of the needs of the institution, with really only two primary sources of revenue – enrollment and fundraising.
What I really liked about their story is how they moved marketing back into alignment with enrollment.
It’s very common for private colleges and universities to align their marketing team with advancement.
But this misses the fact that new students are the main source of revenue for most private schools!
And even advancement is directly linked to new students because future donors are today’s new students.
Taking Charge of the Entire Student Lifetime Cycle
In our conversation, Suzanne touched on another common pitfall among small institutions – the trap of accepting the status quo.
Or, as she puts it, the “best kept secret” trap.
I always just cringe a little bit when I hear someone say that idea of “the best kept secret.”
We had to try to fight against that. In many ways, that meant producing sufficient collateral in all forms, and being able to tell stories that would resonate with various audiences from prospective students and their parents to other influencers in the college choice process.
[We also have to follow through] to current students and their parents, because we have to remarket the institution to them every day. We can’t simply assume that they’ve enrolled, and therefore they’re going to have 100% satisfaction.
[We need to give them] subtle reminders of why they chose this institution, and what it means to be part of this community that is so important to them. And then continuing on through the student-to-alumni lifespan spectrum, making sure we have alumni, friends of the institution, and foundations seeing value in supporting the type of work that’s happening here.
Under Suzanne’s leadership, the central marketing team is taking charge of the entire student lifecycle – from prospective student to future donor.
Education marketing doesn’t stop at enrollment!
The Satellite Marketing Pod
So it’s one thing to have your central marketing team organized and running well.
But what about those other teams that constantly need marketing support?
For PC, Suzanne promotes a collaborative work philosophy where everyone wears multiple hats and is willing to help other departments in need.
There’s such demand in the admission office, that we now have two people who are dedicated solely to enrollment marketing.
In coming to Presbyterian college, I was watching what people in the admission team were actually doing and what their strengths were. Someone who was with us had a degree in English and was tremendously gifted in writing. I thought, let’s recognize that in a specific way. And let’s make sure that we’re really drawing attention to the skill set and knowledge base that he has with enrollment marketing.
So he was the first person physically embedded in the office of admission, having been a member of the team for a long time.
This writing position within the admissions team was the start of what Suzanne calls her “satellite marketing pod.”
It’s basically a marketing team embedded within another team, like admissions.
Later on as the work increased, Suzanne added another team member to the satellite marketing pod within admissions.
This person was a graphic designer and social media marketer, and is now even getting into video marketing.
Suzanne has innovated brilliant ways of aligning marketing and enrollment as well as expanding the skill sets of her team.
The PC marketing team isn’t limited by their titles.
Just because someone is the graphic designer, that doesn’t mean they can’t help out with video marketing, for example.
For Suzanne, it’s about skill sets, not titles.
Video Marketing at Presbyterian College
Those core cultural and organizational distinctives are how a small campus like Presbyterian College can engage in a growing marketing channel like video marketing.
With a small team, Suzanne has to think outside the box to be able to handle the demands of creating video content.
So she assigned one of her marketing team members who has an academic background in video production to campus-wide video projects.
This team member supports the general requests of various departments for video marketing and production.
But then she supplements her small team with a local video marketing agency.
Someone in our central marketing team did study at the undergraduate and graduate levels in video production. We have been able to use his skills for all types of other videos on campus.
But in the admission video world, we have partnered with a local provider in order to help us capture footage on campus and edit it – with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek view of the admission process.
So it’s a combination of the talents of those two people in the admission office, working with the actual video skills of our local provider.
Really, there is so much more in our podcast interview with Suzanne Petrusch about how to use video marketing for Gen Z students – but I just can’t put it all into a blog post!
In our conversation, we go further into how to make your informative video content entertaining for Gen Z students.
We also talk about how small to medium-size colleges and universities can use video marketing metrics.
Suzanne and her team at PC are the proof.
You don’t have to be big to go big in video marketing.
Discover more when you listen to the podcast!
Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.
Listen to our interview with Suzanne Petrusch to get even more insights into:
- How the Central Marketing Organization came about
- The people you need on your higher ed marketing team
- How to use video in your admissions marketing
- How COVID changed higher ed marketing, and strategies for 2021
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Featured image via presby.edu