5 Reasons to Audit Your Higher Ed Institution’s Communications Strategy This Summer

Carnegie Higher Ed Jun 11, 2019 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

For those at colleges and universities who are responsible for enrollment, a communications-flow plan can and should be one of the most important strategies for success. How the comm-flow is set up to attract and retain students through to matriculation can make or break a successful recruiting class. With so many changes in technique and audience, evaluating and even renovating your comm-flow to adjust to market realities isn’t only a good idea­­—it’s a strategic imperative.

Whether you made your numbers or are trying to figure out how to change things for the next cycle, here are five reasons you should do a communications audit now.

The higher education landscape has changed

Higher education isn’t just changing—it’s changed. Instead of a growing number of enrolled students each year, the reality is that many institutions are facing markets with fewer and fewer students. And those lucky enough to be growing in their backyard are now facing competition like never before. Because the industry has changed, it’s important to look at your comm-flow as a winning or losing proposition. Do you have the right strategy to win the students you need to make your class each year? Is your comm-flow resilient enough to withstand more aggressive and tougher competition?

Generation Z students are different

The age of millennial recruiting for undergraduates is now in the past. Gen Z students tend to be more anxious, less interested in study abroad, and more realistic than millennials. In an interesting twist, parents have a desire for their college-bound kids to take more risks and experience the world. As a result, your comm-flow may need to be revised to account for this new generational psychology­. Is your communications strategy set up to account for the way Generation Z students and their parents think about the world?

New data-driven communication tools are now available

For most schools, looking back even a couple of years is revealing to how much marketing and communications capabilities and tactics have changed. I am continuously amazed at the capability for targeting and segmentation that exists today with the knowledge that where we are now is very unlikely to be where we are next year or the year after. As a result of this rapid shift in data-driven marketing, digital capabilities, and CRM tracking, your communications strategy can and should be developed to harness the power of these new tools to maximum effect. Is your comm-flow capturing the value of your data?

Sophomores and juniors expect to be communicated with as well

As competition for students has increased each cycle, more and more schools have started to develop longer recruiting pipelines. The main result of this trend has been for colleges to develop sophomore and junior comm-flow strategies ahead of the traditional recruiting cycle. As a parent of a talented young high school senior, I was surprised to find that over 80 schools attempted recruiting of some kind before my son’s junior year. Even though almost no high school sophomore is ready to be hounded by a college, is your comm-flow set up to recruit students early enough to win them over when the time comes?

Intelligent and segmented content is now king

Let’s face it: a one-size-fits-all approach as a comm-flow strategy is probably dead or dying at almost all the colleges and universities out there. Modern enrollment operations have access to rich data, and CRM systems have multiple ways to segment communications. As a result, your comm-flow strategy needs to account for that without creating so much complexity that the value erodes. It’s a balancing act­.

How can you create segmented communications that pay off? Without the payoff, the extra work (often without any additional resources) won’t be worth it.The answer in most cases is intelligent content along with segmentation. The best data-driven segments in the world can’t be effective if the content lacks the right story, timing, and tone.

Perhaps greatest of all are the students themselves. Today’s Generation Z high schoolers have never known a world without customized marketing on their small screens, which they stare at for seven to 10 hours a day. That’s their world, so you have to meticulously segment your messaging to account for who they are if you intend on attracting them. It’s a given.

If your college or university’s communications strategy needs an overhaul, see how Carnegie Dartlet can help perform a communications audit and develop a strategic comm-flow plan for your institution.

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