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We find ourselves firmly planted in a time in which organizations are rethinking their brand positioning and modifying their approach to connecting with consumers. Higher education and the education landscape as a whole is no exception. When students living on college campuses across the US were sent home early this Spring and classes transitioned to online learning platforms, the education sector was forced to change in just about every facet of its being in a few short months. Now, colleges, universities, trade schools and public and private primary and secondary schools are feverishly making plans for the present and the future to not only conduct class in a safe, efficient manner, but in many cases, they are plotting their survival. Generating prospective student inquiries and boosting enrollment is center stage in such a plan.
In light of COVID-19, the term creativity is at the forefront when it comes to technology, communication and now education. Creativity in the way classes are conducted, the way in which a sense of community and engagement is fostered, and now, the way in which institutions must recruit and attract its student body.
Recently, Forbes highlighted the fact that for decades, the education industry attracted students largely at the grassroots level, in the form of alumni networks, family legacies, sports affiliations and the appeal of college towns. Colleges relied on imagery of the picturesque campus scenery as their key branding play. However, these institutions are now going to need to utilize creativity to capture an audience who may not be physically on the picturesque campus for some time.
Reimagining and reconstructing a marketing approach that acknowledges interruptions and diversions while simultaneously using such challenges to rebuild and rebrand is a task institutions must wholly accept.
In 2017, it was estimated that US postsecondary institutions spent about $730 million on advertising. Breaking it down further, we know that for-profit institutions accounted for 40% of all higher education advertising spending. Such institutions spent about $400 on advertising per student compared to nonprofit institutions that spent $48 on advertising per student and public institutions that spent $14 on advertising per student.
However, as the pandemic has significantly decreased commuter traffic and leisure travel this year, educational institutions who in the past have focused their advertising dollars on outdoor spend (billboards and public transportation, to name a couple mediums), must pivot to a more targeted advertising approach. The “spray and pray” method of advertising an institution’s idyllic landscape to the masses has become outdated and ineffective in a matter of months. Such a shift is expected to cause a 40% drop in billboard revenue in the second quarter of 2020.
So, what can institutions do? They need to conduct research on their ideal student in order to creatively (yes, there’s that word again) develop messaging that resonates with their target audience. While we would argue that the definition of a valuable education has not changed, the way in which such value is delivered surely has. Such messaging must be front and center in each and every marketing campaign. As individuals are concerned about their future and their finances, reassurance that the monetary and time investment in education is worthwhile is crucial.
While the “traditional” higher education or postsecondary student has been evolving from the fresh out of high school teenager, to slightly older adults looking to attend school while working full-time and professionals looking to make a career change, the pandemic has brought the needs of such individuals to the forefront for all to benefit from. Education that is flexible, easily accessible and a great investment are key factors when one is deciding to apply or enroll.
Furthermore, during periods of economic instability, vocational schools, certificate programs and training for specific skills are in high demand. Competency-Based-Education (CBE) – which allows students to apply their work and life experience to their education – can be less expensive, self-paced and more career-oriented. Digging deep to learn what various audiences need from your institution is key in student recruitment.
Then, delivering a fine-tuned, highly targeted message right into their digital lap is the next step and the evolution of marketing in the education realm. Through creative services, digital marketing services and web services, enacting a change in an institution’s marketing approach is now easier than ever. Much like online learning, such tools have been lurking in the background for some time, and as a result of the pandemic, their value as products have been brought to the forefront. Get in touch with us today to learn more about ways in which to fill your classrooms (in-person or virtual!).