Wish we could have hit them all, but here’s the abridged version of two AMA Higher Ed sessions we attended – with links to AMA Higher Ed recaps from around the blogosphere.
An Integrated Marketing Revolution at Ithaca College
In a short 45 minutes, Rachel Reuben, associate vice president, marketing communications at Ithaca College, gave attendees a high-level overview of Ithaca College’s brand building roadmap. From reason and plan through research and buy-in, Reuben, addressed a number of challenges and topics that higher ed communicators are all too familiar with.
Challenge: Inconsistent brand identity
Solution: Market research
Ithaca College relied heavily on focus groups and market research to create a brand awareness advertising campaign, one of many vehicles used to communicate the institution’s new identity. Ithaca College starting their brand identity development journey with a positioning statement and RFP. After finding the right partner, Ithaca College began testing creative concepts. Refining these concept was crucial to evaluating messaging execution and effectiveness.
A “Perception Study” was conducted. Ithaca College collected feedback from current stakeholders, 15,000 prospective students, 10,000 higher ed peers, and results from a 2009 alumni study. The March 2011 concept test helped Ithaca College further evolved their brand identity system in-house prior to the August 31, 2011 launch and they’ve stuck with the same messages and visual identity since then.
Challenge: Identity standards
Solution: Licensing and trademark enforcement programs
Ithaca College developed identity standards to address their core visual identity elements for publication, digital design, multimedia, and social media use and presence. They also focused on developing a licensing standards program for merchandise. Ithaca relies on a licensing partner to help structure and enforce these standards. The institution’s licensing program is a single component in their overall identity to support the brand merchandise.
Trademarking was a separate, but necessary, process. Reuben provided a word of advice on creating new ID standards, “trademark everything,” logos, seal, nickname, sub-brands, and institution expressions. You can find a page dedicated to licensing on the institution’s website: ithaca.edu/licensing. Reuben also shared a funny anecdote about adding the word “College” to little orphan Ithaca, having “Ithaca College,” two words, trademarked in 2010/11.
Challenge: Organizational & budget challenges
Solution: Restructure and form a traveling road show
Ithaca used current data and research to woo key stakeholders. They outlined the office’s goals and demonstrated how their goals align with the institutions strategic plan. In order to expand and restructure, the Office of Marketing Communications (OMC) went on the road. To keep campus stakeholders in the loop, the OMC conducted dozens of campus presentations.
Prior to Reuben’s arrival, the OMC had no in-house design services to support an integrated marketing effort across all schools and administrative units. Reuben championed an initiative to move the web design function out of the Information Technology Services department and into marketing communications. They relied on open positions, and reallocated existing operational budget resources to redefine and create new positions. In the end, Ithaca College had to request only one new position in the budget process through their overall reorganization plan. Now, the OMC covers all integrated marketing, brand management, and content development.
Goals and measuring results
While Ithaca College’s IMC just kicked-off, Ithaca College is comparing the pre-IMC perception study research to the data from the August 2011 launch. The office is using secondary indicators to identify positive trends. The OMC is currently looking for positive trends and impact in these categories: donations, application numbers, retention, employee searches, web analytics, email analytics, inquiries, and campus visits. Ithaca College had a record number of applications last year and plans to retest their IMC again in 2014.
A link to Reuben’s deck: http://slidesha.re/U7MqWH
Taming Your “Little Monsters” Using Students to Inform Practice
Robin Meeks, senior associate director, Megan Alfred, associate director, and Kyle Oman, graduate assistant in Student Affairs Marketing at the University of Arizona (UA), started their presentation out with a question, “Students. Does any other audience really matter?”
Their presentation focused on a growing trend in higher ed, using students to create and carry an institution’s brand and message to the masses. UA continues to have great success wrapping students into their marketing strategy through a Student Affairs Marketing offering called Professional Internship Program (PIP). Students participate for academic credit and experience.
UA and UA Student Symbiosis
Student Affairs Marketing strategically uses PIP to help students build robust resumes with real world experience. While other internship programs offer paper pushing and note taking opportunities, PIP promises a rich, hands on experience with long term application, visibility, and measurable outcomes for their portfolios.
Student Affairs Marketing talked about putting students to work doing everything from project management and graphic design to programming, video production, and content creation. PIP, makes it possible for UA to increase savings, increase revenue, provide career prep services to students, and create an authentic, real-world public facing brand, built on UA’s most valuable constituency – their students.
PIP is a success because UA implemented a rock solid strategy and set of standards to support the initiative. Students are given respect but not free reign. In a structured format, UA students contribute significantly to the look, feel, message, and success of the UA brand.
Students know students best
Student interns are expected to conduct a great deal of market research. They targeted millennials and Generation Zers to gain consumer insight. This data is used to fine tune UA’s messaging and services. Benefits include:
- Access to target markets
- Develop relevant messaging
- Create accessible and authentic models
- Tap into the existing talent on campus
From the data collected, UA was able to reorganize the student learning center. The student tailored learning center formed eight new branches of service, including the Think Tank. A place to go for math and science tutoring, the writing center, weekly course reviews, supplemental instruction, and more, provides both FREE and fee based services to meet the diverse needs of all UA students and is used by a number of high schools across the nation.
Student service resource started in 2008, has seen tremendous growth over the last three years. Increasing retention rates to 72.5% for all freshmen. With more than 25,000 visit, the Think Tank has served 4,844 students. Not only has the this initiative helped the Student Affairs Marketing increase retention rates, but their use of student talent serves as a revenue generator.
Students Say, “Stop the Staging.”
Students sent a message to UA… “enough with the staged images that project your classic view of campus life. Students want the “real UA experience.” UA took this feedback seriously and relied on their PIP students to replace cookie cutter images with real students, in real UA settings, engaging in real UA activities. The results brought UA national recognition.
Student Affairs marketing was able to avoid contracting marketing agencies by tapping into their own Visual Communications students, Student Affairs now holds contests to re/design brands for campus center food providers.
Trying this at home
Meeks, Alfred, and Oman, left AMA attendees with the four key pieces of advice for implementing a successful PIP program:
- Respect: Sometimes you have to just admit, the student is right. Give them wings, let them fly.
- Hire properly: Choose wisely, do your students have a finger on the plus, do they have the fire inside, do they love your institution?
- Be prepared to work hard: You’re the expert, you still need to teach and mold your students workers, they can apply their skills and edgy lens, but you have to refine it and ensure they’re getting just as much out of their work as you are. They should walk away with new skills.
- You’re still the boss: Apply all three of the keys above, but remember, you’re as accountable for the poor outcomes just as much as the great ones, el hefe.
Other AMA Higher Ed themes
If you saw it once at #AMAHigherEd, you saw it one thousand times, we’re living in the age of savvy consumers. Parents and students are shopping around and they want hard evidence that if they choose your institution, they will, without a doubt, come out four years later better off than they came in. The end has to justify the means when college debt insects with a highly competitive job market.
One of the themes that emerged was the strategy of “telling a story.” It’s been said, time and time again by higher ed through leaders, that schools have to eliminate college to student communications and rely more heavily on student-to-student and more authentic communications.
AMA summaries from around the ‘net:
The Lawlor Group, “Making the connection in higher ed marketing”
Robert L. Mitchell, “Higher ed’s high-tech headache”
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosk, “A recap: american marketing association higher education symposium
Rachel Reuben, “AMA 2012 conference recap: Continuing to raise the bar personally, professionally and as a conference”
If you have any session summaries, share your thoughts with our readers, post a link in the comments section.
readMedia Senior Strategist, Danielle Valenti and I are back after attending the American Marketing Association Higher Ed 2012 Symposium. Sure I missed my flight back to NY, but all things happen for a reason, 1) I had 13 hours to reflect on what I learned at AMA and 2) I, unexpectedly, found shelter at a stranger’s house in the Garden District (long story).
This year’s conference theme, CONNECTED, fit the pre-conference hype, focusing on bringing together higher ed communicators and marketers from across the globe. While the most international flare we experienced came in the form of hand-passed spanakopita hors d’oeuvres, I’m happy to report that #AMAHigherEd delivered on its promise to bring attendees cutting-edge approaches, tools, and trends on the forefront of higher ed marketing.
In addition to the Advanced Marketing sessions taking place twice daily, AMA offered a series of breakout sessions, covering six tracks. The topics were timely, relevant, and ranged from brand strategy and marketing intelligence to digital marketing and enrollment. For three days, AMA was brimming with actionable strategies – that’s where it starts and, pretty much, where it ends.
Here’s a tweet that sums up AMA Higher Ed 2012, and let me skip to the punch: AMA provided a platform for showcasing ideas and integrated marketing strategies, but lacked examples of tangible ROI. The only gap in the program was in providing metrics-based evidence of outcomes outweighing investment.
It’s not enough to bring innovative strategies to the table, speakers have to “prove their value” by tying those strategies to end-to-end, data driven results. By end-to-end, I mean, from building brand affinity on target markets to post-grad job placement, and everything in between.
I firmly believe that AMA Higher Ed 2013 will combine the best ideas around integrated marketing initiatives that allow us to do more with less with a year full of data-driven results. Transforming qualitative tactics into measurable results distinguish thought leaders (action) from thought achievers (success). I predict a year’s worth of implementation will distill and reveal the most powerful standards and best practices for higher ed marketers.
Now let’s recap some of the finer moments at AMA. *Note: There were so many great session tracks, but only two of us on assignment, Danielle and I can only speak to and reflect on the sessions we attended, tweets we monitored, and conversation we had with other attendees. Let’s highlight some key strategies and insight that came from AMA Higher Ed 2012, starting with the Keynotes.
In his Monday morning keynote address, “The Value Gap,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Editor at Large, Jeff Selingo reiterated that higher ed institutions need to help students compare the value and difference between college, starting with the admission process. Many prospective students don’t understand what the difference is between a grant and a loan. Selingo echoed a communication strategy we’ve heard a lot about over the last several year, formalizing your institution’s value proposition. Urging institutions to think like the corporate world and address the question, “how am I going to learn and what and I going to learn to ensure my success?”
Kimbrough. Need I say more?
If you didn’t know him before AMA, you knew him after. Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, the self-proclaimed and brilliantly branded @HipHopPrez, of Dillard University made a Tuesday morning feel like a Friday night. Kimbrough was plain, simple, and effective. His ideas on doing something remarkable spurred a twitter frenzy. Attendees could not get enough of Kimbrough’s insight (see tweets below).
Writing checks your A$$ can cash
It’s easy to be inspired by a flagrant branded persona. Kimbrough is remarkable because he has the outcomes to back up the brand. The debacle Kimbrough walked into on day one:
- Budget probz: A mountain of unpaid bills and $1.5M in accounts receivable
- Accreditation challenges: 14 audit findings from the student loan guarantee foundation of Arkansas, 10 internal audit findings, & potential $11M in Department of Ed findings
- Performance issues: Embarrassing retention and graduation rates, pitiful alumni engagement, and unimpressive new student statistics (HSGPA & ACT)
- Standards infringement: AAUP sanctions
What impressed me most is, as the inaugural President, Kimbrough inherited an overwhelming mess (sound familiar?), but he turned the entire ship around – in only two years!
2005 – 2007
Develop a cabinet “Philander-Unit” (P-Unit) and a plan that would cultivate and promote a unique identity with respect to HBCU status and UMC connection – Kimbrough talked about the Renaissance Plan that would bring strength and unity to a college on the endangered list. Kimbrough and his team created a brand that the entire school could relate to and support. The P-Unit moved forward under the auspice of creating a product worth talking about, so something “remarkable.” BlessTheMic, a Hip-Hop President’s Lecture Series was the brainchild, along with a well thought out IMC, that turned PSC around. Seriously remarkable.
What did you think about what keynotes were preaching? Have any favorites? Post your comments below. Also, want a short summary of the session we sat in on? Check out our AMA Higher Ed Session Synopsis post.
But what was missing at AMA Higher Ed? Here’s some “Table Talk.”
No doubt attendees left AMA with strategies and tactics that they can implement tomorrow. However, at less formal, meals and receptions, attendees were voicing their concern about benchmarking, data, and real ROI.
How do we tie effective qualitative tactics to demonstrable ROI? One attendee stated that she knew how to reach students, they’re seeing web visits increase, more engagement in social networks, and more direct inquiries, but still wanted to know, if what they’re spending on marketing, per student, is right. Of course, the variables range and are based on several factors, but this attendee wants to know what institutions spend/yield rates are. Is spending $5,000 per enrolled student appropriate or $2,000? How are schools calculating this and how have they changed their strategies to be more cost efficient?
Drum roll please…, as AMA Higher Ed 2012 kneels before me, I would like to dub thee, the “Now Prove It!” conference. After all the networking, presentations, and bourbon milk shakes one communicator can consume, I walk away from AMA with one thought, “don’t just say it, prove it.”
Sure we learned about how to do more with less, but I think AMA fell short providing examples of measurement models and outcomes that prove you can do more with less and here’s the higher-ROI to prove it worked.
Whether you’re a prospective student, parent, or higher ed administrator, campus communicators are responsible for executing effective campaigns that tie your efforts to institutional goals. You need hard numbers to back up your activities – full stop! Effective marketers rely on quantitative not qualitative data that support their decisions.
When it comes to the results section at the end of each presentation we saw a lot of great, very applicable, strategies with secondary indicators and qualitative data. I’m looking forward to AMA 2013, where I expect we’ll sit in on results and ROI based presentations that turn this year’s innovative strategies into hard numbers and higher-ROI.
- Increase social media engagement by 331%;
- Reach a Facebook audience of approximately 2 million;
- Improve engagement rates on Facebook more than 75%;
- Achieve an online readership of 33,667; and
- Implement a measurable social media strategy that demonstrably supports institutional goals around enrollment, retention, and development, and more!
Edward Osborn, director of university relations at Eastern Connecticut State University and Assistant Director of Marketing and Media Relations at Emporia State University, Gwendolynne Larson, talk about how they successfully united and implemented a content and social media strategy that delivers ROI.
Ed and Gwen will take it a step further by introducing AMA participants to the Attention Matrix, a simple framework that you can use to measure your marketing activities in terms of audience and engagement.
They will talk about getting to “the sweet spot,” the upper right hand corner of the Attention Matrix, by creating and distributing highly engaging content that reaches large audiences. The best part, it’s not rocket science, it’s a working model that you can take back to your institution and start using tomorrow!
Ed and Gwen are really excited about sharing what they’ve learned, so if you didn’t make it to AMA Higher Ed, you can check out the presentation with notes, right here:
Learn how to replace low-value spending with measurable, higher-ROI by leveraging your greatest marketing asset – your students!
Tuesday, November 13, 10:15 a.m. | Paper Presentation | Digital Marketing Track
Edward Osborn | osborne [at] easternct [dot] edu
Gwendolynne Larson | @GwenLarson1964
readMedia delivers students’ academic announcements and achievements to newspapers across the country. Better still, readMedia publishes a personalized story about each student on readabout.me. You can even use readMedia to support international recruiting by including international students in your spreadsheets.
When creating your spreadsheet, simply replace the students’ international postal code with five zeros, “00000,” in the postal_code column. This will allow you to create a personalized story for each international student in your spreadsheet. These stories will be shared in your students’ personal online networks. By including international students in your spreadsheets, you’re implementing a strategy that builds brand affinity in international markets and you’re further supporting your institution’s international recruiting initiatives with measurable activities.
Be sure to include your students’ personal email addresses in your spreadsheet so that each person will be alerted that you’re publicizing their accomplishment online and encouraged your students to share their story with friends and family.
Here’s a quick tip for reaching broader audiences overseas – keep mom and dad in the loop. Include a column in your spreadsheet with a list of parent emails. In a recent blog post, we showcased how the Berklee College of Music was able to build brand affinity in Tokyo reaching an audience of more than 12,000 through one parent’s tweet.
Creating online achievements for your international student communities is a powerful strategy for using current international students to target new pools of students outside of the U.S.
For more on granting achievements to international students and to view a sample spreadsheet, visit our resource guide: http://htn.readmedia.com/spreadsheets/international-students.
Learn more about adding mom and dad to your spreadsheet, visit our online guide: http://htn.readmedia.com/spreadsheets/multiple-emails. You can also check out our “Don’t Forget Mom and Dad” blog post; scroll down to the last segment; in this post you will find out why including parents benefits your school.
Admissions officers and campus communicators are tasked with increasing international student enrollment. With added pressure to increase revenue through international recruitment, it should come as no surprise that admissions offices find themselves hand tied, in the center of a hot and ongoing debate.
The controversy stems from higher ed institutions commissioning third parties to recruit international students, or as other not so diplomatic parties call it, universities using shortcuts in recruiting by effectively “purchasing” international students. Universities are paying agents to deliver warm bodies, so they can increase revenue and boast about diversity.
readMedia users are using a different kind of third party to recruit international students. The third party they’re using, is their own students. International students enrolled at schools like the Berklee College of Music, Clarkson University, Clemson University, and the University of Kansas, are helping schools promote their programs, brand, and multi-cultural community – and these students are doing it for free.
readMedia users are staying out of the line of fire while saving time, money, and increasing revenue by using a social media strategy and readabout.me to increase sincere word-of-mouth marketing outside of the U.S.
The strategy is simple: take one story, a list of students, merge them, and create thousands of personalized stories. Email the customized story to each student, parents, and the appropriate hometown newspapers; then let the brand-building-higher-ROI frenzy begin.
By granting achievements to your student body, both domestic and international, you give students something powerful and relevant to share with family and friends in their personal social networks like Facebook and Tweet. Word-of-mouth marketing is the most valued form of earned media. Students aren’t the only ones bragging, parents can be an institution’s most influential advocate.
Classic Example: Berklee College of Music
On October 12, 2012 Berklee announced their summer semester Dean’s List. Isaku Watanabe Kageyama was one of 283 students to be granted an achievement for making the Dean’s list. Isaku shared his achievement with his 646 friends and family members on Facebook or with his more than 20K followers on Twitter. Isaku’s friend and followers span the globe, making it easy for prospective students to see and read about Isaku’s experience and success at Berklee.
Isaku is not the only one carrying the Berklee brand into his personal online network. The genius behind the Achievement Strategy is that students are not the only brand ambassadors. Parents and friends carry the torch as well.
Isaku’s mom, Yuri Kageyama, a correspondent for the Associate Press business wire based in Tokyo, picked up the story and shared it with her social network. Not only did Yuri’s more than 12,800 followers see her son’s achievement, she also received retweets and tweets of congrats and encouragement from her followers.
Some schools pay agencies more than $2 million dollars to recruit students from overseas. Many corporate companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have consumers endorse their products, promote their brand to friends and family members, and engage thousands of prospective consumers in online and social networks. For the over 450 colleges and universities using readMedia, they’re doing it for a sliver of the price and in less than half the time and effort.
The genius behind the readabout.me strategy is students are not the only ones that build brand affintiy in international markets, parents and friends are part of the organic process. By using readMedia, institutions are recognizing the scholarly achievements and academic activities of students around the world. Friends in markets like Tokyo and Ecuador see the opportunities your institution provides international students; they see how successful and well adjusted their friends are, and the community your institution creates for students enrolling from abroad.
These same prospective students do not hesitate putting your school on their “short list” because they see their friends already endorsing your brand, making them significantly more confident and comfortable with your institution – before first contact. Brilliant!
For more tactical tips and tricks for recruiting international students, check out our From the Editors article, “Using readMedia to target international students.”
For more examples of how readMedia and non-readMedia users are tapping into $21 billion dollars of revenue through international recruitment, read our October 11, 2012 post, “Study Abroad: The International Phrase of Opportunity.”
According to the 2011 E-Expectations Report, 40% of prospective students say the first link they look for on a college’s website is academic programs and majors. If prospective students can’t easily identify what programs and unique opportunities your school offers, they will move on to the next potential school on their list – which means you just lost a potential applicant.
To avoid high bounce rates and low application submissions, campus communicators must:
- Build messaging around the marketing of specific academic programs and the results of those programs in terms of experiential learning and job placement.
- Enhance your web presence. Develop compelling web pages that speak to the quality of your programs and provide information on affordability. Promote creative scholarships and tuition discount programs.
- Play up the student experience and campus life. Include student testimonials and video of students endorsing your institution, its specific programs, and the social and academic opportunities your institution offers.
Hide & Seek, Not Cool
Parsons The New School For Design and the Berklee School of Music hit the nail on the head, making academic programs and majors prominently visible on their websites.
When a prospective student visits the Berklee College of Music website, they don’t have to click around. The most important information is on the homepage.
- Degrees and programs are easy to find;
- Students can quickly access and explore available majors; and
- Real stories of alumni succeeding with a Berklee degree are front and center.
The likelihood of enrolling at an institution increases with a rise in the perceived value of the education it offers. When prospective students visit Parsons’ website they immediately sense they’ve entered an elite community of talented designers that lead and impact the world. The highly interactive, user-friendly interface allows students to quickly discover and scan Schools, Programs, Degrees, and Topics. Using a tile display, prospective students can explore several programs and compare degree options and opportunities.
Through a high-quality web experience, Parsons draws attention to its specialized programs and ties those offerings directly to marketplace preparedness, showcasing the value of a Parsons degree and the value of a great website.
However, viewing your academic offerings and seeing a connection between those programs and a career goal just isn’t enough. You have to clearly demonstrate to students what makes your programs so special.
Hammer Home Your Value Proposition
As prospective students progress through your website, remember that your ultimate goal is to get them to apply. Make it obvious to students what they will get out of attending your institution that they won’t get from the other schools on their list. Clearly and directly convey how your program will help them launch a successful career.
Your website should quickly address these likely questions: What career opportunities are available with this program? How will the college help me get an internship or job placement? Where are examples of other students from this program who’ve achieved success?
The College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska has an entire page dedicated to the value of a CSM education. Prospective students quickly learn that CSM graduates are “the most sought after” by top employers like IBM, Ford Motor, and Alegent. CSM showcases their research, internship, and leadership programs as well as their affordability, stating that ninety-eight percent of students receive financial aid.
In addition to hitting students’ chief concerns, CSM goes a step further to advertise its most valuable program, Mothers Living & Learning, an innovative residential option for single mothers and their children. This program offers single mothers 24-hour security, community kitchens, playrooms, and a community of moms looking to improve their lives and lives of their children through education. This is a unique program with a value proposition that engages prospective students and offers points of differentiation between CSM and other colleges.
Promote The Heck Out Of Programs
It’s easy to market program to students that know what they want to major in, but what about the fifty percent of students that don’t? Drexel’s homepage carousel effectively markets academic programs to every kind of student: the leader, the explorer, the athlete, the do-gooder, and the undecided.
Prospective students visiting Drexel’s website are asked a value-based rhetorical question, “Where do you go from the top?” From there, Drexel makes it easy for students to explore a rich set of programs right from the home page, and each scenario and program offering is designed to convey value. They even developed powerful messaging around their co-op program, targeting the many prospective students that don’t know what they want to do with their lives.
You must highlight your school’s unique program elements to engage the prospective student even further with your institution and turn your campus website into an avenue to increase enrollment by opening up the top of your marketing funnel.
You’re Marketing To Savvy Student Sleuths
Students have an antenna for manufactured messaging. According to Noel-Levitz, seventy percent said they also would like to hear from current students during the search process.
Prospective students want a one-to-one connection with current students, they want to get interesting information that they never knew before – the kind of insight that only a current student could provide. They also want to see and hear about courses, campus life, the accomplishments, and opportunities for success from students at the school they’re interested in.
Emerson Live makes real-time web casts, news stories, and student work related video available to prospective students 24-7. The interactive tiles give students a comprehensive glimpse of what Emerson has to offer, from why students chose Emerson to post grad success. Almost every page on the Emerson web site gives prospective students have an opportunity to learn from current students.
A current student is more approachable and is perceived to have less bias than an admissions counselor, whose job it is to sell the school. Current students are there to learn, not sell. Take advantage of your most powerful brand advocates – your students.
To Sum It Up
Don’t rely on in-person admissions counselor interactions or campus visits to boost enrollment. Create a comprehensive communication plan for parents of prospective students. Include messages that focus on quality academic programs, faculty as exceptional teachers, affordability, and leverage your greatest asset – use your current students to promote and endorse programs.
Everywhere prospective students turn, your institution needs to be there, distinguishing itself from the pack. When they open the mailbox, visit your website, drive down the street, and scanning their Facebook news feed.
At a certain point in the funnel, you’ll have hooked your prospective students. You accomplish this by having the program they want leading to a career they’re interested in with unique elements that make your program different and special.