How Do I Market My College and Its Programs?
You have the students, the professors, the sports. Your college is doing just fine. But whether you’re a state school with a high profile and a large endowment, or a smaller school looking to make a bigger splash, marketing is crucial to your success. New students, faculty recognition, donations, and notoriety are just a few of the benefits available to you.
But maybe marketing sounds daunting. Maybe these benefits seem out of reach. We promise you, there are straightforward and effective steps your college can take to kickstart your marketing.
Trust us, we geek out on collegiate marketing. It’s what we do.
In fact, we recently helped one academic program improve its departmental ranking from #15 nationwide to #1 the very next ranking. We also helped a law school receive its highest enrollment numbers in a year expected to be among its lowest.
So what’s the secret to successfully marketing a college and its programs? No secret really, but here are three actions we take with many of our collegiate clients.
1. Your college is full of thought leaders…so let the world know it
The faculty, staff, and students on your campus are the best of the best.
You know this. That’s why you hired or recruited them!
But, do people actually know about them? Are you showcasing their expertise to a wider audience?
Thought leadership marketing is a way to grow your college and its programs by sharing the expertise and accomplishments of your subject matter experts (SMEs). These could be administrators, professors, students, or other stakeholders. They’re all doing great stuff.
We’ve found thought leadership marketing through LinkedIn is one particularly effective way to showcase your all-stars’ subject matter expertise and thought leadership.
The Mighty LinkedIn
If your SMEs can’t be found by LinkedIn users, you should fix that!
Encourage them to create a high-quality profile and start sharing their expertise. Why? Because the people you are trying to recruit, influence, and educate are likely on LinkedIn and ready to see what you have to offer (even if they don’t know it yet).
By building out their profiles, increasing their connections, interacting with others, and posting regularly, your SMEs can raise your college’s profile as a center for world-class research, learning, community, and achievement.
How will you get all that attention?
Here are just four simple ways we encourage our collegiate clients and, specifically, their faculty to make their voices heard on LinkedIn:
- Share an article and provide commentary about it
- Showcase research publications and other accomplishments
- Engage with and reshare what other faculty, staff, or students share
- Write and post your own LinkedIn article about a topic, trend, or event
But what about students? Students, in particular, are an untapped source of marketing potential for many universities and colleges.
Here are three ways students can help get the word out on LinkedIn about their schools:
- Write an article about something they learned in class
- Share an article and discuss it from the perspective of their class material
- Share about your campus and community involvement, from student organizations to internships
All simple actions but, collectively, they can make an enormous difference.
The trick is buy-in and consistency.
2. Start podcasting…and let your school’s voice be heard
As with LinkedIn, podcasting is an excellent way to showcase the thought leadership on your campus. Whether it’s administrators, faculty, students, or alumni, podcasting offers an engaging, effective way to highlight what’s happening at your school and within its larger stakeholder community.
We know, we know, podcasting, in particular, may seem like a giant undertaking. Frankly, done right, it can be.
But for some of our collegiate clients, podcasting has proven worthwhile for the school, and—dare we say it—fun for the podcaster.
But, what do you talk about and who do you interview?
It all comes down to this – defining your goal. Is it to increase your enrollment? Is it to get more donors? Or maybe to attract more researchers to your faculty?
All of that can be promoted through a podcast. Here are a few ideas!
- Have current students join you to discuss the impact your college has had on their experience
- Invite alumni to discuss how they were set up for success through your college
- Sit down with current donors and discuss why they give to your university
- Chat with the most effective researchers on your campus about their citations
The options are endless when it comes to podcasting. Start today and see your thought leadership flourish!
But, how do you get started with a podcast?
Without getting into the weeds, we guide our clients through a four-step process for getting started with podcasts, as follows:
- Brainstorming: Take time with your team to explore the many possibilities of a podcast
- Recording/editing: From simple (using Zoom) to sophisticated (relying on a third-party production company), consider and select the best way to record and edit your podcasts
- Syndicating: Soundcloud, Simplecast, and other syndication platforms, which distribute to podcast services like Apple and Spotify, can help your school be heard far and wide.
- Promoting: Because podcasts don’t promote themselves, you’ll need to mobilize stakeholders to promote your podcast across digital properties and channels.
And while there’s much more to say about the what, how, and why of podcasting, these four steps provide a rough idea of what’s involved.
If you’re like some of our clients, your university or college could find podcasting as an effective and fun method for increasing awareness and sharing the knowledge, observations, and achievements of your school’s SMEs.
3. Put some money where your marketing is…with paid media
Paid ads through Google, LinkedIn, and other outlets increase your visibility—and visibility is the name of the game. Think about it: new students, donations, media mentions, and the like all start somewhere. They all start with attention.
Many of our collegiate clients have found that paid media, including search, social, and display ads, help them command attention and stay top-of-mind for when important decisions are made—for instance, when students decide which college to attend.
You have a few different options when it comes to paid media, and they all have their advantages.
Search ads can put your college or program at the top of search engine results pages.
This is huge. Why?
Because individuals searching certain keywords are very likely in the market for the product or service they’re searching for. Search ads can connect with customers on the buyer’s journey—right as they’re collecting information about colleges and making enrollment, donation, or other decisions.
You’ve probably heard, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn know a lot about their users. Yeah, a lot.
Your school can harness this user data to target specific groups by age, location, interests, and many other characteristics. This means you can limit your ads—and ad spending—to those groups and individuals that matter most. Think, high school upperclassmen in your state.
Wow, that’s powerful.
You might not realize it, but powerhouse companies like Google and Facebook aren’t just in the business of search and social ads, respectively. They, and many other companies, operate extensive display ad networks that serve up ads on third-party websites.
On the surface, that may not seem like a big deal. But what if I told you your school can present ads on specific sites where prospective students are seeking information about colleges and their programs? Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
And with a tactic known as remarketing or retargeting, your school can show ads to visitors and leads even after they’ve left your website.
It’s little wonder, considering these benefits of search, social, and display ads, that our academic clients have found them an important part of their overall marketing program.
Time to share your college’s story
Your college has a lot going for it. But people don’t know it. Your story is excellent. But nobody’s telling it.
Through tactics like those discussed above, your school can take big strides toward raising its profile and improving the outcomes—enrollment, retention, giving, and recognition—that matter most.
But, maybe you’re not sure where to start? We get it.
At Modthink, we regularly work with academic programs to help them recruit more students, achieve better national rankings, and promote the success of their program.