Research conducted by the Office of the Provost at the University of Rhode Island, claims 80 percent of students learn about schools from parents, family. Sixty five percent of the same students surveyed learn about colleges and universities through online searching.
So how are your higher ed peers using readMedia’s Achievement Strategy to stand out to attract students in desired market segments?
Savvy readMedia users search for current students in their target geographic markets and look for trends among those students. For example, are multiple members of your lacrosse team from a few specific communities? If so, grant achievements to these student athletes that they can share with their friends, family, teammates and coaches! Their shared enthusiasm will increase your institution’s exposure and brand frequency within these target markets.
Similarly, readMedia users are using standard mass marketing tactics to recruit students from outside their established feeder communities. Institutions are developing content strategies that promote common and unique student achievements. Communications offices are expanding the type of achievements they grant in order to showcase their students’ accomplishments, market programs, and demonstrate the value of the student experience.
Instead of relying on Dean’s list and graduation announcements, institutions are using readMedia to highlight internships, athletics, club participation, and more. The logic is simple, each new type of achievement you publicize exponentially increases the chances of your students sharing your institutional brand across their social networks.
Butler University, Indianapolis, IN
Butler University is using differentiated marketing tactics to broaden their reach and capture the attention of new audiences. To supplement standard achievements like dean’s list, graduation, and enrollment, Butler strategically choose to recognize a very unique segment of their student body – ”Legacies.” In doing this, Butler was able to reach audiences in over five target markets.
The heat maps found in your Delivery Reports are an excellent way to see exactly what areas you’re reaching. Use them to determine just how well you’re covering your desired target markets and grant more achievements to the students from these areas.
Emporia State University, Emporia, KS
With the prospective student pool decreasing and neighboring cities attracting students, ESU was determined to extend their reach beyond rural communities and appeal to out of state students and metropolitan markets. With capability to distribute student achievements and share the institution’s collective story through readMedia and readabout.me, ESU could reach a broader audience in key in- and out-of-state markets.
When students and parents share their pride in their achievements online, they increase awareness and draw more attention to the quality of ESU’s academic programs and activities. Having students and parents bring ESU’s brand into their social networks endorses the institution and authenticates the rich student experience ESU wants to promote to constituencies.
University of Wisconsin-River Falls, River Falls, WI
David Moteelall, a student at UWRF, is from Cologne, MN, a small township in Norwood Young America, located 40 minutes southwest of Minneapolis – right in UWRF’s target market. In April 2012, Moteelall was awarded a scholarship from the UWRF College of Business and Economics. To celebrate this accomplishment, UWRF used readMedia to distribute a personalized story to Moteelall and the media.
The achievement was published on readabout.me and David shared his success with family and friends on Facebook. This UWRF-branded story was promoted in the newsfeeds of over 400 friends in David’s network, 11 of whom imported UWRF’s brand into their own social networks by “Liking” the achievement; seven others left encouraging comments for David that in turn are featured to their own networks. The 18 Scholarship Achievements awarded to students at UWRF drove 45 family members and friends back to readabout.me to read the full story.
Leveraging student achievements gives you the power to systematically build your institution’s reputation and brand in competing markets. Geo-targeting isn’t the only marketing strategy readMedia supports, we have several social media strategies and best practices that demonstrably support your institutional goals around enrollment, retention, and development.
If you would like to learn more about getting the most out of your current readMedia subscription, contact us, schools@readMedia.com – we have a variety of tips and tricks to help you succeed.
The pinstripe-power-suit invasion is descending on university marketing and comms departments. If your higher ed institution doesn’t have a Chief Marketing Officer yet, thought leaders and the latest buzz from esteemed publications like the Wall Street Journal are beating the drum for one, stating, “the arrival of the CMO is the biggest shift in higher-ed administration in the past decade.” In an attempt to strengthen brand communications, harness communications expenditures, and ensure the outcomes outweigh investment, higher ed decision makers are opening the doors of academia to corporate CMOs.
Budget cuts and spending scrutiny are forcing many higher education institutions to think and function like a business – whether the groves of academe accommodate it or not. Today’s higher ed CMO demands that communications teams replace legacy, low-value spending with measurable, higher-ROI tactics where possible. And let’s put the strife aside between traditional public relations and marketing offices; the truth is, both offices are discovering that “big business” accountability doesn’t care what role or function you serve so long as you meet institutional goals with quantifiable outcomes.
Marketing metrics level the playing field for all campus communicators, threatening expensive and hard to measure legacy tactics like billboards and print ads (and hard to justify ones like Yellow Pages buys). Communications offices have to justify their spending. Being under the thumb of the campus CMO means there is no room for inadequate metrics to report performance and in/effectiveness. You want to earn your keep, work together and show the ROI. Three sound marketing tactics that campus PR and marketing offices can use to drive down spending, increase ROI, build brand identity, engage key audiences, and legitimize communications efforts are:
- Adopt new tools and methods
- Develop an integrated content strategy
- Track outcomes and measuring performance
Paid, earned, and owned media are the three channels to promote institutional goals and establish brand affinity. As multi-channel communications become an important part of the marketing-mix, communications offices must transform qualitative tactics into measurable results. To accomplish this, universities such as Vanderbilt and James Madison implement content strategies that elevate their institutions through the highest valued brand endorsement, earned media.
Vanderbilt using tools, content, outcomes
Melanie Moran, associate director of University News and Communications at Vanderbilt University, admits that writing press releases is still important, but PR needs to take advantage of the plethora of channels designed for sharing news and information. Vanderbilt is repurposing content to gain earned media, engage stakeholders, and create two-way conversations using the foundational elements of PR:
- strengthening connections to your organization,
- building a community, and
- get media attention.
Vanderbilt made “research enterprise” the focus of their communications, from brand identity to PR. After developing a content strategy around research, university news and communications adopted a new, narrow set of social media tools, and essentially create multiple doors to the same repository of content.
In doing this, university news and communications has the ability to find, publish, promote, and more importantly track the impact of sharing great stories. News and communications continues to demonstrate its value with measurable outcomes. In one year, news and communications drove 2.5M visitors to their website, increased Facebook engagement by nearly 19%, and upped twitter interactions by 35%.
James Madison using tools, content, outcomes
Enrollment selectivity and student fit is a key goal of JMU’s strategic plan. Instead of creating marketing collateral that pitched the strength of its incoming fall class, JMU uses a platform that creates individual stories for each of their 4,200 freshmen and publishes these stories online. Each student is emailed a URL to their story, where they can read and easily share their unique stories on Facebook and other social networks.
By using readMedia, a software that validates and promotes accomplishments and then measures the audience and engagement with them, the communications office at JMU took generic content that lacked traction with audiences, and repurposed it to generate thousands of personalized stories that are relevant and engaging for each individual student. This personalization allows each student’s family, friends, and social networks to become an audience for each story.
In just three months, JMU promoted 10 achievements, generating 15,516 individual student stories that were published online and distributed to more than 36,000 students and parents. Students and parents shared these institutionally branded accomplishments on Facebook, reaching an audience of approximately 2.1M, driving 40,693 friends and family members to the original story. JMU’s news and communications department continues to demonstrate their impact by creating strong, authentic brand affiliation that supports the institution’s enrollment goals – outcomes that make senior administrators very happy.
Vanderbilt and JMU rely on the content and relationship management of PR and the measurable social media tactics of marketing to build brand awareness and fill the admission funnel. Replacing traditional, low value spending with higher-ROI earned and owned media will bring more attention to your institution, strengthen your brand, and turn engaged brand ambassadors into measurable marketing assets, further demonstrating your value and satisfying your CMO.
You’re the center of communication for your institution. The University employs you to create connections with the academic community and all of its stakeholders, and you’re successful in doing so. You have a communications strategy in place, you engage the community, and you present a consistent message at all points of contact. You rock!
So, why is it so damn hard to communicate with departments within your institution?
We understand that it can be hard to communicate with other departments. For this reason, we’re revamping our readMedia guide, and the new resource/help center will have a section dedicated to outreach and onboarding departments. In the meantime, I will give you what we have, some best practices to help you create relationships between departments, so you can get the information you need to crank out institution branded content.
- Create an Achievement Calendar. Once you’ve done this, you can identify the departments you need to contact to get the student information for a particular story or achievement. We just published an article that talks about creating an Achievement Calendar.
- Once you have identified the achievements you’ll be sending and the departments you need to reach out to, you can do to things. 1) Create an email to let other offices and departments know what readMedia is, how you plan to use it, and what you need from them and why. 2) Create a mini presentation and get members of a single office or department together to meet and discuss why publishing student achievements is beneficial to their departments and supports the institutions strategic plan and mission.
- Provide each department with a spreadsheet that includes the column headings necessary to create and post their students’ stories. Here is an example of what to ask departments to include in your spreadsheet.
We understand that departments do not always have easy access to student information; here are some suggestions:
- You can always ask for a master list of all students from your institution’s registrar office. A master list will allow you to create smaller spreadsheets for activities and achievements outside of graduation and dean’s list.
- Finally, seek out your “student database guru,” they can create a readMedia query (directory information on), enabling you to pull student information as needed. An example of when this would come in handy, when your study abroad coordinator sends you a spreadsheet half populated, you can refer to the master list to fill in the blanks.
If the suggestions outlined above still don’t produce fruit, call us, we’ll help you create a strategy and assist you in reaching these departments.
We are seeing a trend among readMedia users, they’re starting to align their achievements and badges with their institution’s core values. After getting their readMedia account set up, they sit down and brainstorm what stories and achievements they would like to publish first, and then they create a calendar for the year.
For example, Lebanon Valley College places an emphasis on leadership and unique programs. They created an Achievement Calendar and set of branded badges around the activities that posture their students as leaders and role models.
Emporia State University does an amazing job highlighting experiential programs including study abroad, community service, and visual arts. Emporia has found a way to use their campus activities to connect with students and newspapers, and the response has been overwhelming. Emporia has a strategy worth modeling, read their story and download their Achievement Calendar.
The University of Wisconsin-River Falls focuses on outstanding teaching and unmatched opportunities for students. Their badges include overseas student teaching, chancellor’s awards, athletics, and their study abroad program. Creating a calendar around these achievements gives them a timeline for reaching out to departments to obtain this student information.
Need additional inspiration? Check out the ultimate Achievement Calendar in our online guide. If you would like a free Achievement Calendar training/consultation, let us know, we’ll set one up – just for you.
Aligning your communications goals and messaging across all public-facing channels is a strategic win for your entire institution, take the time to invest in creating your calendar, then reach out to other campus departments to solicit updates, stories, and spreadsheets.
Leaving the K-12ers out of this, higher education institutions work all year-long, and no, they don’t get out at 3 o’clock either. In fact, with all of the writing, media monitoring, event planning and attending, crisis communications, and addressing breaking news, many college and university communicators work well over 40 hours per week.
Admittedly, summertime tends to be less eventful, but thoughtful experimentation and strategic planning have campus communicators plugging away. To support this humble opinion, I quickly Googled, “Higher ed gets summer off,” and surprise, surprise, I came across a number of recent articles that address the old platitudes:
- Dr. Ray Pastore, blogs about teaching, researching, and preparing this summer.
- Kristine M. Khire, identifies the stereotypes and misconceptions about higher ed PR in a PRSA article.
- Dr. Lora Helvie-Mason, braces herself whenever someone asks her what she does for a living. Her recent blog post addresses what she does each summer, and provides a laundry list of summertime faculty development opportunities for schools on a budget.
What all three authors have in common, they use the summer interval to improve what they do, so they can make higher education better! While I wish I could shield the cogs of higher ed from these stereotypes, I come armed with only two tools, 1) this newsletter and 2) this blog.
Our June newsletter is dedicated to all the summer time workers in higher ed; may you continue to take this time to make higher ed better for your institution and its stakeholders, and may we have the privilege of giving you the resources you need to succeed.
To anyone asking how my first week at readMedia went, I’d have to say, “Awesome.” I have a single purpose at readMedia, ensuring our clients have all of the resources they need to succeed in drawing attention to their school through publicizing the achievements of their students.” What’s more rewarding than that?
My first assignment was to write a blog post introducing myself to the readMedia community. After thinking about the many ways I could tell you how my professional experience qualifies me to be your new Customer Marketing Leader, I decided, that approach was booooring; so, I needed a new idea.
It was my last ride-along of the day; I had already sat in on a Research Brief, a Technology Brief, and finally a Customer Consultation with Danielle. Danielle said to a new client, “Contact me and I’ll help you through any problems or I’m happy to just help you think through problems too.” I was blown away by Danielle’s thoughtful remark. That’s when it hit me, Danielle’s investment in an institution’s success didn’t come with the purchase of a service pack, it’s genuine and it’s free.
In my five days on the job, I’ve learned a lot about the readMedia platform; I liken it to drinking from a fire hose, but I’ve also had the privilege of learning just as much about the company culture. In short, I’m taking this learning journey with you and my job is to help you better understand what readMedia is. That said, I’d like to share three things I’ve learned about readMedia:
No. 1: The average achievement shared on Facebook generates 7 additional page views of the original story. Multiply the number of page views by the number of students, and your department will be responsible for placing your institution’s brand in front of thousands, garnering the attention of parents, current and prospective students, and the media. One school generated 2,188 stories from a single achievement, graduation, that achievement was posted on readabout.me, it generated 15,055 page views, and finally resulted in 1,213 shares on social networks like Facebook. This was all accomplished with an investment of only 25 minutes of time.
No. 2: In one year, over 400 institutions have adopted readMedia and made it an integral part of their social media strategy. One year, 400 institutions, and over 2 million stories shared. That, to me, is amazing.
No. 3: I’m still blown away by the dedication and passion I’ve seen from the team at readMedia. Ensuring each institutions success – at any cost, drives this bright group of people. Every conversation I’ve been privy to has a similar theme – How can we make it easier for marketing, public relations, and communications departments to draw attention to their institutions brand and their students, and what can we do better to make sure this happens?
No. 4: This is a Mac lovin’ office; there’s no PC as far as the eye can see. I’ve had to abandon everything I knew about the inner-workings of a computer and start over. The forward delete maneuver finally feels natural now, but I’m open to any and all tips the readMedia community might have for navigating a Mac.
I feel very fortunate to be joining the readMedia team. As your new Customer Marketing Leader, my job is to make sure you have the resources you need to be successful with readMedia. If you ever feel overwhelmed or like you’re not using readMedia to its full potential, it’s my job to make sure you become a power user fast.
I’d like to see what you think of readMedia; do you have anything to add to my list of four? Leave a “Reply” and share your positive stories or concerns, I want to hear them all!
readMedia had the opportunity to sit down and chat with designer and illustrator, Philip Pascuzzo about his inspiration behind the readabout.me badge designs. Philip is the designer of the original Twitter bird logo and has created more than 300 book covers.
What were some of your inspirations for the readabout.me badge design
I wanted the badges to be immediately readable and iconic. My research lead me to Otl Aicher’s smart and elegant pictograms for the 1972 Olympics in Munich. The simplicity of these are very attractive and stand out among other Olympic pictogram designs. I was inspired by the colorful work of Lance Wyman’s pictograms for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. So the problem was making the read about.me badges colorful, fun and still very simple.
What is your favorite readabout.me badge and why?
The visual and performance arts badge has a sort of mid-century charm that I love. It was difficult at first to solve the problem of visually representing both of these activities on one badge. I’m glad I thought of an eye icon because it says a lot without being complicated at all. Adding human elements, emotion, and a sense of humor to these badges is what makes them work.
What was the most challenging badge topic to come up with a design for?
I think that the “Who’s Who” badge was the most challenging for me. I
presented some options that included a question mark at first. That approach
wasn’t working making it even more difficult. The final design is the
cleanest one out of the batch and I feel works great. Often the simplest
solution is the best, you just may need to get complicated before finding
How do you think you would react If you were still a student and your
school published one of your achievements online using a readabout.me badge,
considering your perspective as an artist/designer?
I would love it! I could probably convince my mom to buy me skateboard
equipment for every badge I receive. This almost game-like incentive is very
attractive and fun. Seeing the badges together is like a pretty mosaic of
your achievements. This sure beats the black and white piece of paper stuck
to the fridge with a magnet.
In your opinion, do you think there will be more of a demand for badges
in the graphic design world?
I really do since users love customizing and interacting with the internet
now more and more. People have always collected rewards for their
achievements. So a badge with a strong design should be a great little
readMedia customers who’ve watched our platform evolve over the last 18 months know that publicizing student achievements in social media is an authentic, powerful way to reach audiences online with positive brand messaging. Turning students (and parents!) into advocates by getting them to share stories of their own accomplishments at an institution is an engaging content strategy that gets results. These personalized stories, and the visual badges that accompany them, are a way to create “micro-virality” about the success of your students and expose all of their connections to the great opportunities available at your institution.
We love the standard set of readabout.me badges that accompany student achievement stories. Designed by Pepco Studios’ Phil Pascuzzo, designer of the original Twitter bird logo, these badges are colorful, engaging and look great in the Facebook newsfeed (plus they generate a ton of likes and comments — four times the average!). But, we also know that many institutions have worked hard to develop strict visual identity systems that incorporate elements of their brand — school colors, mascots, taglines. As a result, we’ve rolled out a new product: readMedia clients now have the opportunity to brand the achievement badges, and even design completely custom badges!
Dozens of our current clients — like Clemson University, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Marist College, Clarkson University, Union College in Kentucky, and Hudson Valley Community College — have all upgraded their readMedia subscriptions to include custom branding on readabout.me. By adding their institution’s name and colors to the existing readabout.me badges, or by having their internal graphics team design custom badges, these institutions and many more are ensuring that when students and parents share achievements online, the badges and the achievement are instantly recognizable and affiliated with the college.
In addition to badges that more closely match an institution’s visual identity, branding packages on readabout.me also include a landing page that aggregates and highlights achievements from that institution’s students. Colleges can design this landing page and link to its other social media properties and its web site.
When students don a college sweatshirt or affix a university window sticker to the back of their car, they’re showcasing their pride and affiliation with an institution. Customized branding on readabout.me allows institutions to ensure that type of affiliation is happening online, too. When a Clemson student shares an achievement that proudly bears a purple-and-orange Clemson badge, complete with the tiger paw, all of his or her Facebook friends connect that student and his or her achievement — be it making the president’s list, studying abroad, or earning a scholarship — with the institution where it occurred. And since the average achievement shared to Facebook generates 7 click-throughs back to the original story on readabout.me, colleges have an even stronger opportunity to drive prospects to their other social properties and web site via the readabout.me story.
If you’re interested in learning about how to add branding and custom badges to your institution’s readabout.me presence, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.