Recruiting & Promotion: What Colleges & Universities Should Be Doing Online

Today, I responded to a CASE listserv request about recruiting blogs being launched by colleges. I have a lot of ideas about this kind of campaign. I’m sharing here in hopes you’ll offer some feedback, too. Thanks.

Here’s what I shared on the list…

You’ve likely already thought of these, but FWIW – here goes …

Short story? Video. RSS. Re-purpose the content in other sites – off-campus. Build a team of student influentials.

Ideas? Use video … video is the most popular draw and it can serve to tell the story in a way that really “shows your school” to the potential students. Keep ’em short – under 2 minutes. Video is fun. Video is real people (peers) sharing the school’s identity. They own it (the identity) and create it / morph it every day. Not the school. Allow them to put your view of the identity into their words. (Caveat: set guidelines for your students … what can and cannot be shown.)

Students at campus and off-campus events showing it happening and also interviewing students & others. For the off-campus life stories, see the caveat above. Students interviewing students and faculty about classes / campus environment …. staff interviewing each other, various student services people on campus and more.

Again, keep the videos short. It really is important.

Examples of research? Just days old, Generations online:
http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1093/generations-online

A year old, but good:
http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Teens_Social_Media_Final.pdf

Invest in Flip cams or whatever kind of inexpensive, yet good quality, video camera and “give them” to a select group of students. Seven students? Ask them for one video a week. Stagger them out. Get students that are truly bought into the school and program. Even better? Pay them.

For the videos, don’t just put them in the blogs … use TubeMogul.com to post them to 15 or more video sharing networks at once. Maximize the possibilities of organic search to help people find your blogs & videos. Upload the videos to Facebook & MySpace, too. Place links back to your blog landing page in every description of every video on every site … along with your key terms & phrases as tags. Be consistent.

Create a landing page with RSS headlines of all the blogs. Editorial can create a top link set of the best blogs.

Setup a Facebook fan page and MySpace page and any use other useful social networks … RSS the posts into those pages. Re-purpose the content so that it is seen elsewhere, too.

Set a key string of keywords/phrases that get posted in each and every article. (WordPress Tags)

Give the site a prominent front page placement on your school’s gateway … a 150x150px icon, for instance. Yes, I know how difficult that can be to gain acceptance for, but without that buy-in, do any of us really expect success? That’s where many of your potentials will first land in most instances.

Bring the key students together periodically with soda & pizza to get them thinking as a team. Create a team of ambassadors. Give them t-shirts. Build a tight community of believers.

Why more schools don’t do this, I just really don’t understand. Colleges have built in influentials … your students. Is it risky? Sure. Can you monitor and guide it along? Yes, but with a light hand.

Honestly, I don’t understand why all colleges/schools/departments within a university don’t do this in coordination with Admissions. Think of the search possibilities all of that combined constantly new content can drive toward your Web site.

I share all the above at the risk of sounding too “online slap happy.” Still, I really do believe that these tactics can help your strategy of attracting viewers. I’m not drunk on social media koolaid. I recognize the risks. But, with a good relationship with the students you choose, and giving them freedom (feeling empowered to help the school), I believe you can be successful.

On top of all that, this really is an inexpensive way to boost your recruiting program. It isn’t a panacea, but it is the way to go, IMO.

OK, that’s what I shared. There is so much more to it, but I’m truly sold on the possibilities of these types of programs. The one thing that is still missing today? Buy-in from the higher ups. One of the greatest frustrations.

One would think, in a time requiring inexpensive yet worthwhile initiatives, this would be adopted with glee. Still waiting.

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0 thoughts on “Recruiting & Promotion: What Colleges & Universities Should Be Doing Online

  1. Bob Johnson

    Everything here makes great good sense. Why aren’t more doing it? I’m still thinking that a major (the major?) reason for many is still the fear of content that can’t be controlled… drunk, rowdy alumni at a tailgate party next to your other YouTube videos when people connect there from something that originated on the official website. Been there, seen that.

    Unreal? Of course. But that’s still the way so many people in leadership positions think about these things. To some extent, a generational thing. Some people truly are more comfortable with their head in the sand. Version of the tree falling in the forest syndome. “If I don’t see it, it won’t bother me.”

    So we all keep pushing and prodding and older people do retire… things are changing and will continue to change.

    Reply
  2. Robert

    I agree with you, Bob. There has to be a balance / middle ground between the unreal perception of controlling the message and the too realistic world of online that goes unaddressed by too many schools.

    It is likely generational, along with old school administrators fearful of (a) learning new ways, (b) putting faith in students & others, combined with (c) a “I’m not going to do it. What, risk my job and retirement?” I’m sure there are some that follow any one of those (if not all three) mindsets.

    It is changing, but for some … it will be too slow and maybe even too late.

    Reply
  3. Tiffany Gallicano

    Great ideas, Robert.

    I want to add the suggestion that school videos do not have long template introductions (such as clips of the university set to music). Watching the same long introduction and not being able to skip past it (due to the file loading) can be annoying. I usually enjoy watching the intro the first time, but after that, it’s like watching a long commercial.

    Reply

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