Online applications. E-mail postcards. Electronic viewbooks. These are the marks of student recruitment in the digital age. As our society becomes increasingly paperless, with a push for a “greener” approach to doing business, so too has the higher education space adapted to fit this model. More than ever, institutions are looking for ways to enhance their digital presence in the eyes of their constituents, using social media, online advertising, and mobile applications to gain the enviable position at the top of the heap.
During a recent conversation with one of our creative clients, however, I was stunned to learn just how much value students and their parentsstillput on printed recruitment materials. Even though most of the same information could be found both online and in their printed pieces, prospective students and parents still preferred the feeling of holding something tangible in their hands. To them, the presence of print materials, especially from schools they were familiar with, made the institution seem more “legitimate” and “prestigious.” Of course, this same audience does prefer electronic contact (students more so than parents), since it is an effective method to reach those who are on-the-go. But those who provided feedback wanted the online contact to be asupplement, not asubstitute,for more traditional communication. In the end, these students and parents reinforced the importance they saw in printed pieces – as one parent put it, receiving a school’s course catalog is what “sealed the deal” for them.
Even with the ever-present push in a “paper-free” direction, I don’t think printed recruitment materials will ever fall completely into obscurity. In fact, I think their value can only be strengthened by the presence of digital communication. Both can work in tandem to reinforce and enhance a school’s image in the minds of its most important audiences.