As a full-service marketing and communications firm, the GRIT team has the opportunity to work with clients in a wide variety of industries. One market that we’ve been fortunate to help impact has been the education industry. From private K-12 schools to higher education institutions, we have been honored to develop long-term relationships with educational institutions of all sizes across Central Pennsylvania.

From telling brand stories, to identifying differentiators, to implementing digital campaigns to increase enrollment, the GRIT team helps educational institutions dig deeper to build a foundation upon which their campus can grow.

Today, we are offering up insights on five key areas institutions can consider to make their marketing efforts work harder:

  1. Know Your Decision Makers
  2. Content Counts
  3. Meet Students Where They Are
  4. Evaluate Your Online Presence
  5. Nurture, Nurture, Nurture

Tip #1: Know Your Decision Makers

For private K-12 and higher education institutions to achieve their marketing objectives, targeting the right individuals with a valuable message through the right channels is key. In the education sector, there are many different audiences to consider – from current and prospective students and families, to alumni, to faculty and staff, to donors (and more). Therefore, it is important to first identify what your goal is and who you need to reach to accomplish that goal. For example, if your goal is to increase enrollment, high school students and parents/guardians will be a key audience.

Once you have identified the target audience, remember to evaluate the message and channel through which it will be sent. Be sure it provides value to the audience who receives it. For example, a message about scholarships and/or financial assistance and how to apply would be valuable to prospective students and families.

Another important factor to consider is the student versus parent/guardian decision maker. When it comes to deciding on which private K-12 or higher education institution to attend, both students and parents play a role; however, they will consider different deciding factors. While students may be interested in what extracurricular activities the school offers, parents may be more concerned with the scholarships and financial assistance that is available. Therefore, it is key to segment your marketing efforts and messaging for each specific audience. For example, having two separate campaigns, each leading to their own landing page (one for prospective students and one for parents/guardians), would be beneficial.

Correctly identifying your audience and the best way to target them based on demographics and psychographics is critical. For more information on how to identify and reach your target audiences, check out our blog!

Tip #2: Content Counts

For educational institutions who want to reach a younger demographic, remember to create content that appeals to them. This means focusing on video content, the latest social media platforms and encouraging user-generated content.

High school and college aged students watch video content on their mobile devices daily. In fact, 72 percent of customers would rather learn about a product or service by watching a video. Plus, viewers retain 95 percent of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10 percent when reading it in text. Therefore, institutions need to invest in solid video content, which can then guide a broader content strategy. From campus tours, to interviews with teachers, to on-campus events, generating and sharing video content on all platforms including websites and social media platforms is a great way to showcase an institution’s personality and allow viewers to connect on a more personal level.

Another option to generating engaging content is to host live videos on Facebook and Instagram. These live videos could be a way for prospective students and families to have their questions answered, get to know more about a certain program, tour the campus or learn how the admissions process works. Whatever the case may be, being active on social media and posting trendy, engaging content that is relevant to the target audience (and keyword rich) is critical.

Lastly, because deciding to attend a private K-12 or higher education institution is a large investment for many families, user-generated content can assure them they are making the right decision to attend your school. Having current students and families (along with alumni) share their personal experiences to social media serves as a great recommendation and testimonial. Plus, many individuals are more likely to trust current students and families than the school itself, so don’t underestimate the power of user-generated content and testimonials.

Tip #3: Meet Students Where They Are

Educational institutions need to meet students where they are, which means creating engaging content for the channels on which they are most active. For young adults ages 13 to 17, the most used social media platforms are Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. In addition, with the rise of video platforms, TikTok has become one of the most popular platforms for individuals ages 16 to 24. Therefore, it is important institutions understand these platforms and focus on creating engaging content and ads to reach these prospective.

When developing copy, consider telling a story. Through storytelling, students can get a first impression on how the institution welcomes students, provides them with a remarkable educational experience and sends them off into the real-world better prepared to achieve their career goals. Not only does this method of content marketing capture the reader, but it allows them to picture themselves as a student going to your institution. In addition, addressing the audience’s pain points and explaining how the school can solve these issues is another way to provide value.

No matter if your institution is creating content for paid social media ads, blogs or videos, incorporating industry related keywords in all the content produced is critical, which will help increase SEO and related rankings on search engines. For inspiration on how to reach students where they are most active, check out this unique Snapchat campaign the GRIT team developed to increase attendance at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design’s open house.

Tip #4: Evaluate Your Online Presence

With many educational institutions trying to increase brand awareness and ultimately enrollment, competition is fierce. Having a strong digital presence can help your school break through the noise and stand out against the competition. Key factors to consider when building your online presence include a user-friendly website, SEO and reputation management.

To begin, having a user-friendly website that speaks to each target segment (i.e. prospective students, parents, alumni, etc.) is important. Each of these segments will find value in different information, so it is important the website is organized to address each group. Additionally, designing your site so it is mobile-friendly and ADA compliant will enhance the user experience.

Incorporating keywords relevant to your institution is critical (i.e. city, state, program titles, online degree programs and 4-year institution, etc.) to boost performance in search and increase rankings as well as consumer interest and leads. Strong calls to action throughout the website will also help direct users to take desired steps and can generate more leads. Remember, search engine optimization and lead generation are complex areas of marketing and the algorithms are constantly changing. Check out this website GRIT optimized for York College of Pennsylvania.

Another factor to consider when evaluating your digital presence is your online reputation. It is important to regularly monitor what current and past students and their families are saying. To be proactive and engage individuals who provide online reviews, GRIT recommends having general responses drafted to respond to both positive and negative reviews. If a negative comment is found online, respond as soon as possible and move the conversation offline before it turns into a larger issue.

Tip #5: Nurture, Nurture, Nurture

When recruiting prospective students and families, remember to nurture the relationship from the first touch point. Developing an admissions communication strategy that outlines the goals for communicating with prospective students as well as the cadence of when to communicate with them is critical. A drip campaign can be beneficial as it can help your brand reach prospective students at the right time. For example, once they submit their application, reach out and thank them and provide a list of next steps while they wait for your school’s decision.

Remember, often times prospective students will not decide about your educational institution after their first inquiry. It is important to foster the relationship with that student sharing your brand story, benefits of your institution, testimonials, and more to stay top of mind and drive them to submit an application.

If you are a K-12 school or college/university looking for a marketing agency to partner with, GRIT is the team. Our experience and extensive knowledge of the industry will allow us to dig deeper and take your marketing efforts to the next level to increase brand awareness and enrollment, connect with us today to learn how we can help you!