January 24, 2007

Marketing programs III

While most prospect students will find out the most about your programs through your Web site, you hope they'll hear good things through the "word on the street" and their interactions with program representatives.

Here are a few ideas for making programs a little easier to hear about and to locate.

Your URL goes everywhere

  • Include your Web site URL on
    • e-mail signature lines (faculty and staff)
    • stationery
    • business cards
    • presentation materials (For instance, PowerPoint slides and handouts should use College or University templates and include a program-specific URL.

  • At workshops, conferences, community meetings, etc., have something available that you can give out. It could be a business card or a bookmark.

  • If you're speaking somewhere, be sure you’re identified in the schedule or program as being from the College and University.

  • Post to newsgroups and listservs in your field and put a URL in your signature line.

  • Don’t be afraid to brag about your program, your faculty, your staff, your students, your college. Prepare a few points that everyone in your program can talk about so you’re all giving a consistent message.

Keep your friends informed and make new friends

  • On campus

    • Inform University advisers about your program’s strongest selling points. (Remember CCE, CLA, the Graduate School, and other college advising offices, ETC Services, St. Paul Career Center, and perhaps the Study Abroad Office.)

    • Have materials available for visitors to research and service centers in your field.

    • Make the most of your relationships with other departments and submit related news and course offerings to their departmental or student newsletters.

    • Be sure your faculty are listed as experts in the U’s experts guide, the Children, Youth, and Families Consortium’s experts site and others as appropriate.

    • Routinely ask faculty and staff for new bragging points. Make sure your college's communications office knows about what your program is most proud of. Don’t neglect students and alumni accomplishments. If the communications office doesn’t know about something, they can’t provide that information to University Relations or other units on campus that can provide you with publicity and recognition.

    • Offer a freshman seminar.

    • Offer an information session and use all your contacts to invite prospective students.

    • Nominate your faculty, staff, students, and alumni for University awards.

    • Teach a session at Saturday Scholars or similar programs

  • Off campus

    • Host a regional event.

    • Sponsor a conferences or seminar.

    • Seek out the most popular blogs and listservs in your field. Post related comments. Link to your program site or faculty page.

    • Find out if any listservs in your field allow promotional postings or sponsorship and post accordingly.

    • When providing an URL in an e-mail or listserve, or even your signature line, place it within a context. For example, “Visit www.education.umn.edu/CI/Faculty/research/ to discover research in curriculum and instruction.?

    • Write a letter to the editor. Not just to the local newspapers, but to any newsletter or journal in your field. These can be reprinted on the College’s Web site.

    • Offer an online survey course.

    • Consider authoring a Wikipedia entry for your research area. Be sure it links to the College or your program area but don’t limit it to such links or it will be removed. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_education. Harvard has a link carefully included there. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_learning. The Johnson brothers are mentioned in the references and could be made into a link.)

    • Consider authoring a Wikipedia entry for your most prominent faculty and alumni. (See the entry for Robert H. Bruininks. See also, List of University of Minnesota people.

    • Create a blog site. But only if you have the time to keep it updated. (See http://intranet.education.umn.edu/Communications/web/blogging.htm for advice.)

    • Consider asking faculty to create pages on Facebook.com or other social networks.

    • If you have technology, sport, or science news, consider submitting it to Digg.com. (Currently this site gets a lot of traffic and bloggers find stories to write about. It might die out in a few years.)

Build individual relationships.
  • Keep your feeder schools, associations, professional groups, advisers, etc. informed. Feed them news, editorials, or programs details as appropriate. Be sure to ask them how they want to receive this information and respect that preference.

  • Ask for links to your Web site from professional associations. Be sure to consider state, national, Canadian, and international associations if appropriate.

  • Consider having a display at conferences, lectures, etc. sponsored by related organizations. Sponsor the refreshments or provide the pens.

  • Check in with your alumni. Keep them part of the community.

  • If you’re giving a guest speaker something related to the College as a thank-you gift, consider mailing it to his or her office address. Don’t let it get left behind at the hotel.

  • Does any industry related to your programs need more graduates in your field? If so, ask them if there any way they could assist in promoting your program(s).

  • Keep bio pages and contact information on your Web site accurate and up-to-date.

  • Consider posting an IM (instant messaging) address and staffing it.

Consider the best experiences you’ve had at your favorite restaurant, hotel, garage, or clothing store. What did they do to make you feel great about your experience with them? Can you do something similar?

Even if a student decides to go elsewhere, can we make them feel like they’re missing out on something here? How do we show we understand their needs and are on their side? How can we be gracious?

How can we keep our graduates feeling like a part of our communities? Who else has more credibility in their assesment of the program than a graduate?

It's the faculty, their repution, and reputation of the school that really influences prospective graduate students. But even if faculty are not available to respond to prospective student inquiries, someone in the program area can keep in contact with your prospective students and build a relationship with them. They can be encouraged to think favorably and speak favorably about your program to their friends and colleagues. They can be encouraged to apply. People respond to those who show an interest in them.

“Naturally, students want to receive information about your campus when they are beginning their searches. But they also want to continue communicating throughout the recruitment process.?1

Relying on the Graduate School, the Admissions Office, the alumni society, or students services is not enough.

  • Review your admissions process to insure that every student who applies is greeted, welcomed, and encouraged to enroll. This does not necessarily have to be in person.
  • Greeting and encouraging those who haven't completed the admission process is also critical. Check the Apply Yourself system to identify those who have yet to complete their applications and send them a note with additional information about your program, your faculty, or your graduates.
  • If you identified influencers on prospective student’s decision to apply, consider how can you best keep those influencers informed. Does this audience need to be added to a College mailing list for research publications? Would an e-mail twice a year from the department chair be welcomed?
  • Promptly answer e-mail and phone calls from prospective students ASAP. Be available. Faculty and staff are the best examples of the quality of our programs.
  • Consider dropping any forms or procedures that create additional steps for students applying or that increase confusion about the application process.
  • Extend the relationship. Get prospetive students to campus if at all possible and let them meet you, the faculty, and current students. Host a recruiting weekend.

1 Engaging the “Social Networking? Generation Posted by bullwink at January 24, 2007 1:46 PM