If you had two options:
- Donating for a charity that provides children with food and shelter
- Donating for a charity that will provide food and shelter to Julia, a 4-year-old orphan from Serbia
Which option would you choose?
Research shows that from a marketing point of view, the second option is always preferable. People love subjective perspectives and personal stories. If this is so, why do so many university marketing and student recruitment strategies consist of such generic, dry copywriting and visuals from Shutterstock? What happened to brand personality?
Being generic is a safe bet, that is for sure. But is it the right one? Should you dare to be more bold, open and personal with your marketing?
The answer is definitely YES. In a world of infobecity, where there is more information than time to absorb it, only the true and unique stories have a chance to stand out.
Here is how you can do it for your educational institution:
Foster a culture of sharing to create brand ambassadors
The usual brand ambassador is someone who is hired to present your institution in a positive light. But what if you do not need to pay someone to do so? If people are genuinely excited about you, they will be happy to share their experiences and recommend your school or university to others. What you need to do is curate the process and empower your current students and staff to become more involved. Include various methods of gaining feedback (such as creative writing or mid-term feedback sessions) and take a minute to avoid common mistakes in interpreting your data. If providing feedback is part of your institution’s culture, it will become part of its brand as well.
Pick a marketing message, then put everyone on the same page
If you have already managed to prepare and engage your students and staff, you need to make clear what kind of messages they should be sharing. It is not about giving everyone a note. All your internal communication should revolve around one key message. For instance, if one of your values is innovation, you need to constantly embrace and share examples of innovation on campus. If you care about community, your focus must be providing support for people and telling their stories. One message is enough, because people are forgetful and get easily confused. Do not try to cover all your vision and mission. Choose one message, then share it everywhere and make it sticky.
Real people, real time
Once you have ambassadors with a clear, strong message, put them on the pedestal. For instance, if your message is about how innovative your university is, you can organize Facebook live discussion series where your staff chats about innovation with your students. Give a prize to the student who offers a solution to a current issue on your campus.
Organize a hackaton where your students can work towards solutions that will help and improve the local community. Be proactive, include people and offer them a chance to talk about their achievements. That is the best way to engage your students and staff and to generate great stories for marketing.
It’s 2017. People easily detect which marketing tools are fake and which ones tell real stories. Live your values and become a platform of genuine sharing. Only then your marketing strategy will be a success.
So, how do you engage your students and staff? Would you say they are the ambassadors of your school or university’s brand?
Tell us in the comments!