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

January 23, 2007

Suggested reading

I found McGovern's "Words that work: search words versus website words" article interesting.

Choosing the words we use to describe our content can be tricky. We need to use common terms in order to be found by search engines users and to be recognized by people browsing listings of our programs or articles. But there's the tension with also wanting to use the most academically correct terminology. And some terms have conotations we might want to employ or avoid. For instance, vo-tech or vocational-technical education are commonly used terms. But that's not the term used in the field. The Journal of Vocational and Technical Education is now being published as The Journal of Career and Technical Education. Which term do we use? It's important to know the purpose of the page and who the intended audience is. And how strongly the faculty feel about the term.

Writing Link and Heading Text is another good article that came across my Outlook recently.

Posted by bullwink at 10:01 AM

January 19, 2007

E-Newsletter difficulties

We won a 2003 Gold Award for our newsletter. That newsletter is no longer in print. I'll be candid and confess that our new electronic newsletter for our college is not as popular as we think it should be. I'm curious as to what others have done to increase their readership. Do you run contests? Have you made it more lighthearted or more news-you-need-to-know?

How are you getting out the news your dean's office or department chair wants distributed? Do you use print along with e-newsletters? Does your leader deliver mosts news via e-mail instead of a newsletter?

The bruning question is no longer how to format your newsletter. It's how to capture your readers' attention to keep them reading. I don't mean remaining subscribers, but reading to the next item in your latest issue.

Some of you will recall Leslie O'Flahavan's session at the Forum conference held at the Depot. She has some good tools and advice.

I think the best advice is to know why you're writing a newsletter. Are you acting as a consultant, a news reporter, a news aggregator, a gossip, an industry insider, a storyteller? And it's critical to write a strong subject line that identifies the newsletter and describes this issue's content. It's even better if it includes a verb or strong adjective.

What newsletters do you read in e-mail, Web, or blog formats? I've stopped reading anything that simply interests me. I now read only that which will help me do my job. So I read UMNnews, The Recorder, the forUM communicator, and all our departments' newsletters. In all honesty, I don't read those either. I skim for color and keywords. I don't often choose to follow a link. I don't want many graphics. I love bullet points. I love consistent style. I don't check any blogs except my husband's and I don't always bother to read it. And I don't read many of the RSS feeds I subscribe to. Even more honestly, I only read our college newsletter because my friends contribute to it and it sometimes contains information I need to be effective in my job.

If we manage to improve our readership, I'll post how we did it. And we'll enter it in the next Maroon and Gold awards competition.

Posted by bullwink at 2:13 PM

January 18, 2007

Marketing programs II

Now that you've got a solid sense of your program, your students, and your priorities, let's look at how prospective students might find out about you. In this issue of the blog I'll look just at online searches.

Internet search: Google, Yahoo!, etc.
We need to know commonly used program names and keywords. What might those be?

  • Use those terms on your Web pages.

  • Rename your program if necessary.

Consider how you might research cell phones before making a purchase. You seldom search by specifics such as model number. You search by using general terms. You don't know model numbers. Prospective students shouldn't be required to know the exact name of your program; they should be able to search by concepts and common terms.

University of Minnesota search
Review University catalogs and directory listings.

  • Is the program listed in the University catalog?
    (Graduate degree programs and tracks can be listed in the Graduate School Catalog, along with certificates offered through the Graduate School. Undergraduate degree programs can be listed in the undergraduate catalog. Areas of specialization and emphasis areas will not be listed, but can be included in program descriptions.)

  • College certificates and professional programs like the M.Ed. or M.P.H. which are not listed in any University catalog can be listed or referenced at Postgraduate Professional Programs and Certificates.

  • Is the program listed in the college’s listing of fields of study? (This might be CEHD specific: www.education.umn.edu/fields. Emphasis areas and areas of specialization can be listed here.)

  • Is the program listed in the University directory?

School search sites
Is the program listed, as appropriate, in any of the following directories:

  • GradSchools.com (Expect subsequent sales calls.)

  • Peterson’s Guide (Student services areas or dean's offices typically update this.) You can alsosponsor listings.

  • www.graduateguide.com (I’m not sure how this is updated.)

  • www.schoolguides.com (I’m not sure how this is updated.)

  • The Princeton Review A recent search for graduate programs in education in Minnesota only listed the Humphrey Institute for the U of M in the search engine results. A search for recreation and fitness graduate programs only listed the Medical School. I think each college updates these listings.

Professional association and accrediation sites

  • Search to see if related professional associations have sites that might link to your program.

    For instance the National Association of School Psychologists lists approved programs. But they don't provide links. It doesn't hurt to ask if they'd consider adding links. The American Statisitcal Association doesn't seem to list any academic programs so in making a request for a link you might want to also volunteer to create such a list for them.

  • Consider expanding on your list of competitors and publishing it on your site. And if you have graduates teaching in any of those programs, consider noting it. (This gives you a legitimate reason to repeat keywords in a document.)

Next time I'll write about trying to improve the "word on the street."

Posted by bullwink at 3:02 PM

January 16, 2007

Quoting from Stamats QuickTakes

First of all, subscribe to Quicktakes. It's worth it.

Strategy is not about doing more or doing better. It is not about being excellent (whatever that means). It is about being different.

Let me try this from another direction. If you offer the same basic programs as other colleges and universities, then you have 3,600 competitors. But if you refine or redefine who and what you do so that you are unlike your competitors, you become a unique, even distinctive choice. In doing so, you move from a position of vagueness to a position of clarity.

In most cases, a differentiation strategy will center around one or more of the following strategic variables:

Product: what programs you offer and how they are delivered; this includes curriculars and extracurriculars
Price: cost and how you use financial aid
Place: where you do what you do, including location and facilities


For more on differentiation, check out our White Paper: Trout on Strategy: Differentiation in Higher Education.

Posted by bullwink at 5:00 PM

January 4, 2007

Marketing programs I

I've been thinking a lot about how to help academic departments promote their programs. It seems to have been on the mind of many faculty this fall. I'm considering making a presentation for people in our college, but first thought I'd post my ideas here for comment. I'm particularly interested in hearing about anything you've tried and the results.

Of course the first thing you need to know is what you're trying to promote. So ...

Before you begin
Know your program

  • What sets you apart from your competitors?

  • What are your strengths?

  • What are your weaknesses?

  • Who do you want to apply to your program?

  • What is the final product a student will have received after graduation? Is it more than a transcript and a diploma? (A degree is a purchase. People purchase benefits--convenience, comfort, entertainment, security, status, health, savings, profit, or style--not programs.)

  • Why are you excited to be involved with this program? What “sells? it to you?

  • Consider your program in context. What sells it might include our urban location with major league sports, theaters, and major corporations. It might include accomplishments of your graduates. It might include recent research results.

Write a statement about your program that no other institution could honestly write. Share that statement with others in your program and with your communications office and advisers. It will help everyone better understand your program and use the same language in promoting it.

Know your target audience

  • Who influences your applicants’ decision to apply? (parents, employers, advisers)

  • What attracts applicants to your type of program? (job prospects, research interests, promotion opportunities, desire to serve)

  • What attracts applicants to your program? (ranking, specific faculty, metro location, competitiveness)

  • What motivates your prospective students to apply? (study abroad opportunities, alumni mentoring, research opportunities)

  • What discourages your applicants? (cold, parking, lack of responsiveness to e-mail, focus of faculty research, lack of students like them)

  • What characteristics do your best students share? (professional experience, undergraduate degree in specific area, know alumni, took an intro course)

  • How can you best reach your most desired prospective students? (conference in Thailand, CLA adviser, professional association, extension service)

  • Ask advisers and former directors of graduate studies what questions prospective students ask most often.

  • Review the content available at What do audiences want to see on a Web site?

Create at least one persona (fictional character) that incorporates some of the characteristics you’ve identified. You can use this persona later to help you evaluate your plan. Let’s say you create a persona named Ann who lives in San Francisco, is married, has a B.A. in English, has worked for three years in the advertising industry, and has been reading about new developments in your field and wants to pursue this new interest. Will your promotional efforts reach Ann? Will they motivate Ann?

Remember that you can’t be all things to all people, but appealing to your persona will help you appeal to real prospects.

Know your priorities

  • What is your department’s biggest need? Do you need to increase the number of undergraduate applicants or would it be better to increase the number of doctoral students? Do you want more applicants or better-suited applicants?

  • How does your program reflect that need? Is it possible that efforts on behalf of the department also meet your program’s needs?

Please remember
You are not conducting brand marketing. That’s what the U is doing with the Driven to Discover campaign and what Bruininks is doing by repeating his “top 3 public research university? message. You can (and should) take advantage of the U's brand marketing.

You are involved in direct marketing. You are marketing a very specific product.

You are involved in relationship marketing. You’re maintaining positive relationships with your colleagues, funders, current students, alumni, etc.

My next entry will focus on how prospectives students might find out about your program and ideas for making that easier for them.

Posted by bullwink at 2:55 PM