Do You Still Need a Printed Viewbook? 10 Rules for Designing Viewbooks Part 2

In part one of this series, I covered five suggestions for getting the most out of your printed viewbook. This week, I’ll tackle the top five things that will help you with your viewbook experience.

5. Have a flow

Viewbooks that don’t have some type of defined flow to it typically are difficult to absorb.  Consider the viewbook as a guided tour much like on campus.  Walk the reader through a defined story about your institution.  What comes first and what comes last is not as important as putting together a flow that makes sense and does not confuse the reader.

4. Use QR codes

We have tracked the traffic of QR codes and they are ever increasing.  Students are using them.  This is an opportunity to drive them to videos on YouTube or anything that will show them the true essence of your institution beyond the printed piece.  If you are looking for ways to integrate technology….this is your opportunity.

3. Accompany it with a letter that engages and entices

The standard, “Hello Joe Student, thank you for your interest in College X” is not going to cut it.  If you want them to read the letter at all beyond the first sentence….capture them with something.  A call to action, an event on campus, a unique fact or just about anything beyond the standard letter salutation would be good.

2. Run it by your students!

I once worked with a school that used the term “Show me the money” when talking about financial aid.  (this was before we got involved!)  First of all….that is horrendous.  Second of all, when we asked students about what they thought about that they said: “what does that even mean?”.  Jerry Maguire came out when these students were probably 2 -years old.  While it may be funny to you……it probably is not to them.  You have access to your current students so use them as a resource!


OK, so I have listed 9 very important rules in the development of a great viewbook.  While they are all important, none of them compare to the next one.  If you leave with ANYTHING after reading this post, leave with the following rule!

  1. 1.   No “kitchen sink” mentality!!!!

What I mean here is that the viewbook is NOT a course catalog nor is the viewbook a website. It is simply a visual representation (with some words) of who you are and why you are worth the investment (aka a “view”  “book”).  Every program, every department and every student life event does not need to be discussed or even listed in this publication.  Students and parents have the web for these types of things.  Once you start feeling the need to keep adding and adding and adding and adding….you have developed a boring, useless viewbook.  If there is push back on campus about not “equally” representing the academic programs then develop an academic piece with spreads that “equally” represent each program and send that under separate cover.  Trust me….students and parents are not opening up the viewbook in hopes of finding that you offer “Psychology 101” as a course.

So, that is it!  If you any further questions I would LOVE to discuss the development of a great viewbook. (one of my favorite discussion topics beyond sports!)  Have fun, good luck and remember……less is more!

Reach—Your Audience and What it Means, Key Higher Ed Social Metrics Part 2

Please, click here to see Part 1.                                                          

What is it?

Odds are you have heard of this metric before only under a different name such as Facebook Page “Likes”, Twitter “Followers”, or YouTube and blog “Subscribers”. This metric is often used to measure a channel’s success; however, using this metric alone is a bit like using one screenshot to determine the story of an entire movie. Your Reach consists of the people a message will directly touch, but not necessarily the number of people who will actively engage and interact with you. It is important to remember that Engagement will show how well you are communicating with your audience.

It is also important to note that your Reach is not a limit. Highly engaging content will spread through your audience to new people and hopefully prospective students!

Why is it important?

You must know your audience to engage them. Reach is more than simply the number of people, but also the type of audience your channel has. It is important to know who you are talking to. Is it alumni, parents, current students, prospective students? This can be determined by analyzing the demographic data available to you. For example, if you see that your Admissions Facebook Page consists primarily of 18-24 year olds in and around your institution your audience is mostly current students and possibly recent alumni.

What can you do about it?

There is no one-size-fits-all for schools but broadly you can tailor your message to your key audience. Solicit current students to show off your institution by posting pictures and sharing their experience. Ask your alumni to post advice to students and share memories of campus or iconic places. Encourage prospective students to post questions and meet other students. And introduce parents to the campus learning environment and faculty members. Tailoring your message provides your audience with the content they want and are more likely to respond or react to.

Be wary of “buying” your audience. In other words using Facebook Ads to increase page Likes. This will increase your Reach but not Engagement. Find out why that’s important here. There are some special cases where Facebook Ads can be used effectively as a small part of an overall strategy, but this does not supplement for true interaction as a foundation for Social Media.
















Do You Still Need a Printed Viewbook? 10 Rules for Designing Viewbooks Part I

Do I still need a printed viewbook?

I can’t tell you the number of times I am asked that question.  Quite honestly, the answer is simple…..yes.

In focus groups we have conducted with both students and parents, the feedback has been overwhelmingly in support of receiving the “big brochure” that they will look at as part of the decision making process.  Can they go online and learn about a college or university?  Sure.  Can they go on facebook and see updates and happenings on campus?  Sure.  At the end of the day, there is still something special about holding a printed piece in your hand and turning the pages to uncover beautiful campus shots, to get a feel for the students that attend the school, to learn about academics and to envision yourself as a student there.  I have always said that the same holds true when making other big decisions in life, such as buying a car.  How would you like it if you were about to make a $20,000-$40,000 investment and you asked the sales person at the car dealership for a brochure with the pictures of the shiny new cars on the mountain tops with the wheels turned and they said….”umm…we’ll send you an email or check us out on the web”.  I don’t think you’d be too happy about that.

With all that said, the role of the viewbook has certainly changed in recent years.  I have listed below the top 10 rules for developing a successful viewbook both in a creative sense and strategically as well:

10. Make it special.

Simply put, the PRINTED viewbook needs to be for Seniors only.  To make an impact, the viewbook needs to be set aside for those that have taken the time to learn about you or have shown some level of interest during the recruitment process.  I can’t tell you the number of schools that hand them out at college fairs, send them to Juniors and even Sophomores.  By doing this….it is loses the impact.

9.  Complement the viewbook with an online viewbook for everyone else.

Here is where technology can play a role.  Develop an online viewbook to be sent to Juniors, Sophomores, (competing schools who are certainly all over your website seeing what you are doing) and anyone else that might have an interest in your institution.   They are relatively inexpensive to develop (TWG Plus has one!) and they are a great solution to working within a tight printing budget.

8. Viewbooks are not for “all of the lonely people”

A little shout out to the band “America”, sorry had to do it.  What I am saying here is that a big mistake in developing viewbooks is taking “lonely” shots of campus and/or students.  While you may have a beautiful campus, the shots of buildings with no one around simply convey one thing…a lack of community on campus.  Same holds true with shots of students by themselves.  Unless you are profiling someone, a shot of a student alone says, “I don’t have friends.”  Students and parents want to see themselves fitting in and finding people that they can see themselves spending time with.  Not many people like to be lonely.


7.  Photography is key

This goes along with my previous point, but I wanted to emphasize this even more.  While professional photographers can be expensive, they are worth the investment.  Some schools will fill up their viewbooks with either shots taken by students or with a digital camera and quite honestly….you can tell.  Experienced photographers who know how to shoot colleges will visually convey the essence of your institution.  If budget is an issue, then use any images you get from the photographer in an oversized fashion and then fill in with small inset candid shots by students (or your iPhone 4).

6. 8.5 X 11 is BORING!

Yes, I said it.  If you have a viewbook that is the size of a piece of printed paper….it is boring.  Consider oversized, undersized, odd-sized, crazy folds, unique bindings etc.   When we test viewbooks in focus groups, almost 90% of students and parents polled, like the viewbooks that are NOT 8.5 X11 as their favorites.

That’s it for now. Next time, I’ll cover the remaining 5 rules for designing printed viewbooks.