The Connection Conference 2022 was full of memorable moments and insights from higher education and digital marketing professionals. Here are five of our favorite quotes from this year’s conference and a little insight into why we love them.
1. Celebrating higher education’s innovations and wins
The story about higher education during the pandemic seemed to be that the industry was struggling. NACAC CEO Dr. Angel Perez knows that negativity gets clicks for reporters, but he took time to remind us all that we should also tell the story of all the positivity and innovation happening.
“I talk to a lot of reporters… and I always like to remind them: Could you please stop writing about doom and gloom because there’s actually great things that are happening in higher education? I try to use my platform for positivity and to remind people of good things. […] There’s a lot of good happening—we just need to do a better job of telling that story.”
— Dr. Angel Perez, CEO of NACAC
Dr. Perez knows what it’s like to be met with adversity; he took over as NACAC’s CEO at the beginning of 2020! He said that focusing on mistakes or what isn’t going well won’t move the needle forward for our communities. Angel encourages you to share the positive experiences and stories from your campus with local community members and news outlets. NACAC is always striving to support and grow leaders—teachers, counselors, and enrollment professionals alike. Connecting people who have the same goal and want to invest in the next generation of leaders will always lead to positive outcomes.
2. The first step to creating true diversity on campus
Colleges across the country want to increase diversity on campus in one way or another. But what does it take to truly move the needle to become a more inclusive institution? Renea Morris from the University of Denver had some advice for administrators about the first step toward true diversity.
“I think all of us need to start from within and look at ourselves. Because when we think about how we communicate and put things together to get students to come to our universities, it really starts with the people at the university. If we want to be inclusive (and show that we’re inclusive), we have to demonstrate that in our day-to-day in what we do. We have to establish trust, be transparent, and invest in people.”
— Renea Morris, Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications, University of Denver
It’s not enough to advertise a diverse campus and college experience—we need to deliver on that promise. How do you do that? Walk the walk if you’re going to talk the talk. Try creating a system after a student enrolls so they feel a sense of belonging and have resources that are set up to follow through on recruitment promises. A space for all students to learn from each other will grow a culturally rich community.
3. Nothing beats a good website
Carnegie’s Jaime Oleksik shared the latest trends in marketing and how colleges and universities can embrace them to enroll more students. There’s a lot that changed during the pandemic, but one thing hasn’t gone out of style: the need for a great website.
“Your website is your catch-all for everything. Everything you’re putting money into from a marketing and recruitment tactic leads to your website. I guarantee there’s not one student that enrolls in your institution that hasn’t been to your website at least 10 times.”
— Jaime Oleksik, Assistant Vice President of Strategic Marketing, Carnegie
Your website is your most heavily trafficked campus “facility” and a key component to your enrollment and marketing ecosystem. As you strive to build human connection with your audiences, their relationship with your institution begins on your site. Students expect a smooth and personalized web experience based on their interests and where they are in their journey.
4. It pays to go “lofi” on TikTok
TikTok is one of the fastest-growing platforms on the internet and one of the best places to reach a younger generation. Andre Makris from TikTok highlighted how creating for this short-form video app is different from other platforms and why it pays to go “lofi.”
“You don’t necessarily need a studio or high-paid actors to film TikTok creative. We actually advise against it. We don’t need overly polished creative… chances are that’s actually going to perform worse. A student and their phone… that’s really all you need to produce creative.”
— Andre Makris, Edu Brand and Partnership Manager, TikTok
Over 40% of TikTok’s audience is made up of teens and young adults. Unlike so many other platforms, the best way to capture the attention of your audience is actually to “blend in” with content that looks and feels similar to what teens and young adults are already seeing. Lean into the trending dances and filters through on-brand 10–15-second videos. Prospective students want to be able to envision themselves on your campus. TikTok is a platform that gives them a peek into what it’s like to be a student at your institution.
5. Why brand storytelling is so effective
Storytelling plays a big role in helping higher education institutions build their brands. Voltaire Santos Miran of Carnegie offered his tips and tricks on telling better stories but also highlighted why a good story is so effective.
“In the absence of information, our minds tend to run to the worst possible scenario. When we don’t have all the answers, we try to create a narrative. Stories are a way for us to provide order, to provide pattern, to give us a sense or framework to view a situation when we might not have all the information.”
— Voltaire Santos Miran, EVP of Creative, Carnegie
A human’s authentic identity is developed through their personal experiences, memories, and stories. Your institution is no different. If you’re not telling your brand story, then your audience will develop their own narrative. Strong brands guide their audience’s perception rather than leaving it up to chance, and they do this by developing an emotional human connection through storytelling. We know that humans make decisions based on emotion then justify those decisions with logic, which is why when your goal is to gain affinity and drive enrollment, you have to start by introducing yourself through story.
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