In this third and final post on why individual Faculties should and can take control of their student recruitment and marketing, we look at the role of supportive communities in underpinning success. You can read the first post in this series here and the second one here.
SUCCESSFUL MARKETING and high impact publicity leading to increased student recruitment do not necessarily derive solely from outputs: in other words, devising and communicating key messages is essential but is not an end in itself.
It is also necessary to cultivate advocates and receptive audiences. This can be achieved by developing communities of interest – individuals and groups who are engaged with your Faculty because they share your values and goals and are intellectually drawn to your offerings.
An example might be in say, Ancient History, where there is a pre-existing interest and fascination with the ancient world by people spanning all age groups – not all your students have to be young!
Such communities can be drawn in by you and have their interests piqued through the use of messaging and conversations around the subject in social media, special-event lectures, academic and student blogs, articles in newspapers (including local and regional as well as metropolitan), magazines, radio broadcasts and bespoke videos on channels such as YouTube, your Faculty website and, of course, your university’s website news and events pages.
Too often – in the pressure to recruit students – the cart is put a long way in front of the horse in these engagements: contrast “Come to us to talk about our Bachelor of Engineering in Aviation” to “Let’s talk about the new F35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter – is it the best plane or a flop?” If your interest is in aircraft you will always be drawn by the second.
To understand who is interested in your programs and why, utilise blogs (by academics, researchers and students) and put regular updates on Faculty activities on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram (ideal for Media/Design departments).
Invite former students and their guests to interesting events such a guest lectures. In disciplines such as applied finance or engineering, then staging professional conferences and offering professional development opportunities also help to create a network of advocates.
There is solid evidence that “communities of interest” are today a primary channel for student recruitment because members are so enthused they wish to pursue more formal study.
Take the time to create specialist content. Encourage students to produce videos, photographs focused on fun or extraordinary activities that might include expeditions, field trips, research activities, guest lectures, debates, theatrical events, concerts and exhibitions. Share them with marketing teams for wider distribution their on social media platforms. Monitor responses and use information garnered from these to find out what people are saying about you (even negative comments can provide insights on how you may improve your offerings).
Consider using the Google Glasses – the latest Virtual Reality breakthrough devised by HECG – at local and overseas recruitment fares to give potential future students a totally immersive experience of your Faculty, its people and its facilities. See the HECG paper Innovation, creativity, absolute customer focus, maximum results at minimum cost: how to be a real international marketing success.
Recruitment and marketing: engage your alumni
Opportunities for increased recruitment and development of advocates and communities of interest can flow from thoughtful and continuing engagement with your former students.
Many alumni possess great knowledge in particular subject areas, gained not just from study but also from working in specific areas, for example, business administration or advanced digital technologies. They have that vital attribute – “practical wisdom” – and should be invited to share that with faculty advisory boards, on developing curricula, and serving to inspire students to reach their potential.
Prominent alumni in key markets (eg Media in China) can be encouraged to take part in special events and/or in the process of marketing to specific regions. For more information on how to engage alumni to the best advantage of your Faculty see our HECG paper How your university will flourish if you nourish your alumni.
Recruitment and marketing: the essential follow up
It is also vital that your Faculty assists in following up on applications and offers. Engage Faculty academics and current and past students to talk directly to applicants and you will see your conversion rates rise. Pick out three or four activities that your Faculty can do to recruit students more efficiently. Workshop these with colleagues so that everyone involved has “buy in” with the process.
Again, social media is key in transmitting your messages so look at best practice in this area and adapt it to your needs. Of course, nothing beats human contact so work out a timetable to establish regular contact between Faculty advocates and potential students.
* Need assistance with your Faculty student recruitment and marketing? HECG’s expert professionals are here to help. To contact us go to our website or here or simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +61 403 302 710