Make Your Brand Work Smarter, Not Harder

Take a second and remember the first time you stepped on your alma mater’s campus. You’re nervous and excited; anxious, but ready to start this new stage in your life. The sights, the smells, the emotions–memories that will stick with you throughout your life– create that once in a lifetime experience. What challenges did you come across? What do you wish you knew back then to make it a better experience?

Now, take that experience and try to express it with words and images. How would you capture that emotion in a phrase or in a photo? What would be the one thing that you would want the future generation to cement in their memories? The challenge: you only have 15 seconds to capture the attention of your prospect and inspire them to take an action.

Easy, right? Well, maybe not so much.

So, what do you do? How do you jam-pack all the important information in your messaging while keeping your target audience captivated and engaged? How do you move them through the funnel and keep them eager for the next step in the process?

The key to engagement is understanding the prospect experience and empathizing. Branding is all about stepping away and seeing your institution through your prospect’s point of view. This ensures that your brand not only stays relevant but also that you’re attracting the right students for your community.

Forget your deadlines and goals for a minute. When was the last time you stopped and asked what the hardest part of the enrollment process is FOR THE STUDENT?

Where do you even begin? The answer: research.

Perception is reality. Therefore, a successful brand campaign begins with a thoughtful, proven perception study process. A perception study will put your brand to the test and evaluate how both your prospects, as well as your internal audience, perceive your school (and your brand). A simple online survey can provide critical insight into the beliefs and behaviors of your prospects and stakeholders, and lay the foundation for successful enrollment marketing strategies.

Who should make up your internal audience? Current students (undergraduate and graduate), faculty, staff, administration, and alumni are indispensable resources. Exploring the extent to which your stakeholders understand and embrace your mission, vision and institutional strengths are key. Remember that they are the ones living and advocating your school’s brand on a daily basis.

Don’t stop there!

Is your messaging resonating with your key audience? A survey of your prospective students will help you answer that. Getting prospects to respond can be tricky, so consider incentivizing them in some way. The farther along they are in the funnel, the more likely they are to respond, so applicants and beyond are ideal candidates to leverage. Research with prospective students will identify issues related to your reputation, image, and awareness, perceived strengths, and weaknesses, as well as overall academic reputation. You’ll gain insight into who they are, where they are, and what influences their college decision-making process.

An online study also provides the quantitative analysis necessary to establish baseline metrics and engage a larger campus community in the quest for the right students. The more data you have, the better. Information is a powerful tool that will make every communication you have with a potential student personal and inviting, establishing the trust that is needed to make a decision as big as choosing a college or university to attend.

It’s simple but takes time, reflection, and thought on your part. Put your brand to the test and see how it measures up. Did it pass the test this time? Does it need some work? Remember to keep checking in on your brand to make sure it’s working for your institution.

If you’re uncertain whether your current branding is helping or inhibiting your enrollment goals and you’re seeking a data-driven answer, research is key. If you have any more questions about how to get started evaluating how your institution’s brand measures up, the TWG Plus team would be happy to help! Email us at info@twgplus.com to set up a time to talk.

Improve Your Brand’s Performance

From crafting a unique story that uncovers your key messages to creating the buzz that sets you apart, building and maintaining a successful brand is no easy feat for an educational institution. Is your school up to the challenge? Of course it is – so take a deep breath and follow our tips for taking your brand to the next level.


Top 10 Tips Brand Banner

Know your audience.

What matters most to them? Start with a solid foundation of market research to bring clarity and focus to your branding efforts.

Know thyself.

What sets you apart from the rest? Identify your distinctive qualities and develop a message that highlights those strengths.

Make a promise.

Let your brand promise be your guide. Strive to meet and exceed expectations at every level of communication.

Be authentic.

Authenticity speaks volumes. Brands that tell a genuine, honest story will resonate with your students, build trust and make a connection.

Be consistent.

Your brand represents who you are. Regardless of the medium, consistency is key to building recognition, familiarity and trust.

Create brand ambassadors.

An engaged and passionate internal audience is the key to brand awareness. Let your faculty, staff and students be your voice.

Be inspired.

Inspire your students by taking risks. When you explore new and creative ways to connect with your audience, you strengthen your brand.

Be data-driven.

Just remember success takes time. Conduct surveys, focus groups and interviews to gain insights of the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Build community.

Invite your audience to be a part of your story. Every tweet, post, like or share extends your brand’s reach exponentially. Encourage it.

Celebrate.

An updated brand deserves some buzz. So celebrate your institution on campus: throw a party, print new t-shirts, make a splash. Incorporate elements of your new brand into every marketing effort.

Download the Top 10 Tips to Improve your Brand’s Performance

If you are in the Atlanta area and would like to learn more about our brand process and what it could do for your institution please join us at Brand Camp August 26th. Sign up today! 

5 Proven Marketing Methods for Increasing your HBCU Class

5 Proven Marketing Methods for Increasing you HBCU ClassI worked in undergraduate admissions for nine years, and the majority of those years were spent at Morehouse College in Atlanta, a historically black college for men founded in 1867. Aside from trying to convince young men from across the country and throughout the world to attend a single sex institution, the biggest worry of each year was “will we make the number?” Or in other words, would we hit our enrollment goals for the recruitment cycle?

In today’s higher education landscape, competition is fiercer than ever. After recent changes in the credit standards of financial assistance through PLUS, HBCU’s experienced a decline in enrollment, the biggest in first-year students.*  As a result of this, it’s going to take a sophisticated, varied and integrated marketing approach to reach the desired population that will not only apply to your institution, but that will confirm and later enroll.

With sights set on the fall classes of 2016 and 2017, its never too early to get some advice, direction and a new game plan for the next classes of students that will inhabit your college or university.

In our conversation, we’ll be discussing Research, Student Search, Digital View Books, Publications and Integrated Marketing Campaigns, and how each of these assets can help you increase your class.

Far too seldom do colleges and universities take the time to conduct market research on themselves. This extremely valuable information will enable data-driven analysis that is necessary to make your marketing and recruitment efforts more effective and take the guesswork out of your approach.

Student Search is the name of the game. Differentiate your institution with a clearly defined, organized and systemic schedule of messages in the digital and print space, as well as poignant, pointed and substantial messaging should be a big step in recruiting your class, and meeting and exceeding your recruitment goals.

The same publications year in and year out gets old, and become ineffective. A fresh way to look at how to create publications will be discussed, and more importantly, all of the different types of publications that are necessary to speak to all of the populations needed to increase your class.

There will always be a place for print in higher education marketing, however, how an institution markets itself digitally is becoming of paramount importance. Digital View Books are where this medium is headed, and not only are they an innovative and new perspective on the look and feel of an institution, they are so much more cost effective than print, can be altered in far less time, and their activity and effectiveness can be measured.

Using all of the strategies together in an Integrated Marketing Campaign will show that your institution is serious about recruiting and marketing to the desired populations of students, parents and counselors. Our conversation will cover how IMCs work, and how, regardless of the size of your institution, a campaign can be tailored for your school’s needs.

During the discussion you will learn how you can join other top-ranking HBCUs who have partnered with TWG Plus, such as Spelman College, Morehouse College, North Carolina A&T State University, Morgan State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Talladega College and Clark Atlanta University to name a few.

On Wednesday, June 24th at 2pm EST, we’ll discuss concrete and substantial methods to increase your HBCU class. Join us for the discussion by registering here.

*Source: Top Strategic Issues Facing HBCUs, Now and into the Future. A report by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges

Think you know HBCUs? Think Again: 5 Things About HBCUs You Probably Never Knew

Of all the colleges and universities in the country, HBCUs are some of the most popular from television to movies, and yet some of the most misunderstood. Read further to learn 5 interesting things you didn’t know about HBCUs.

1. You may have seen the acronym before, and politely wondered ‘what exactly does HBCU mean?’ HBCU stands for ‘Historically Black Colleges and Universities’. Currently, there are 104 HBCUs still transforming, educating and graduating students throughout the country. These institutions, primarily concentrated in the South, are known as cultural hubs where trends are made, legacies are preserved, and minds are inspired by outstanding educators.

2. The vast majority of HBCUs were established after the Civil War, with a few established in Pennsylvania and Ohio in the 1850s. Cheyney University (1837), Lincoln University (1854), Wilberforce University (1856) were the first HBCUs founded for freed men to receive higher education instruction. In 1862, the Morrill Act provided funds and land for the creation of land grant colleges whose academic concentrations would focus on agriculture, science, military science and engineering. Other colleges were established after the Civil War, through the work of the Freedman’s Bureau in the 1860s. The highest concentration of these schools was in the South, whose college system was segregated at the time.

3. The common misconception is that HBCUs are only for African American students, or students of color. That’s simply not true, and it never has been. Hampton University, founded in 1867 was long a top producer of Native American graduates. Historically Black Colleges and Universities are just that, historically founded for students of color, but students of all races, nationalities, ethnicities, religions, etc.. The only instance when one can’t attend a specific HBCU is in the case of the all-female (Bennett College and Spelman College) and all-male (Morehouse College) colleges.

4. Many prominent and notable Americans are products of HBCUs, in nearly every field of human endeavor. From politicians to writers, and athletes to intellectuals, HBCU alumni are as vast and diverse as their student bodies who boast populations with students from nearly every state in the union. Martin Luther King, Jr., Michael Strahan, Toni Morrison, Sean Combs, Tom Joyner, Walter Payton, Thurgood Marshall, Stephen A. Smith, Lionel Richie, Langston Hughes, Jerry Rice, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Taraji P. Henson, Herman Cain, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson and Oprah Winfrey are just a few notable HBCU alums.

5. TWG Plus is proud to have partnered with several HBCUs to increase their exposure and enhance their marketing and publications. Our work with HBCUs such as Concordia College, Morgan State University, Clark Atlanta University Morehouse College, Spelman College, Mississippi Valley State and Talladega College has been innovative, award winning, ground breaking and most importantly, it’s helped each of these institutions meet and exceed their admissions goals.

As a proud third generation HBCU alum and a proud Morehouse Man, I welcome the opportunity to work with other HBCUs in my capacity here at TWG Plus as the Director of HBCU Marketing, to create innovative pathways to effectively communicate their message to their target audience. We offer student search, recruitment publications, marketing strategy tactics, brand positioning, qualitative and quantitative research, website and graphic design, advertising, social media marketing and direct and email search marketing. We can help you exceed your goal. For more information, please contact me at joe.carlos@twgplus.com. Let’s get to work.

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I Believe In Higher Education… Do You?

Ivory Tower

Recently, I came across a documentary – Ivory Tower. Written and directed by Andrew Rossi, this June 2014 documentary tackles the question: Is college worth the cost? Ivory Tower delves into the over 1 TRILLION dollars in student loan debt our country has amassed as of March 2014.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 launched the Federal Student Aid program with both grant and loan programs. As Ivory Tower reveals, in 1977 a Federal Pell Grant would cover, on average, 116% of a student’s college tuition. In 2014, only 42% is covered by the same grant. The remaining 58% is split between the institution, the state, the student and his or her family. With state funding for tuition assistance in drastic decline, student loans – both federal and private – have picked up the slack.

I have witnessed both the promise of a better future and the economic hardship student loans can facilitate. When I was a financial aid director I would often face a student sitting on the other side of my desk asking to withdraw from college. At the point they hit my office for counseling all they wanted was their ticket punched to leave campus and go home. Yet, when a student drops out of college mid-semester, they are sometimes subject to 100% of the institution’s charges, but only receive a portion of their financial aid prorated by the number of days they attended class. This can leave a student owing the institution upwards of $10,000 for being on campus just a few weeks. This student may never be able to repay the institution, receive their transcripts to transfer and could face default on their student loan which is not forgivable even in bankruptcy.

You might say it’s the student’s decisions that put him in this situation. This may be true. But many times first generation students, in particular, don’t understand the repercussions of their actions until they are facing them.

But what about the student who does graduate? As highlighted by Ivory Tower, average student loan debt is approaching $30,000. This $30,000 often impedes with the ability to buy a car, a home or even start a family.

With this daunting problem brought to light, Ivory Tower looks into alternative models for funding and delivering education. Examples included New York’s Cooper Union’s endowment funded college providing students 100% scholarships. Founder Peter Cooper’s mission statement for the college stated the college should be open with “free education to all.” Financial hardship due to failed hedge fund investments forced the college’s board to reconsider the founder’s mission when they charged tuition for the first time in 2014. Instead of attending college for free, students faced a $20,000 price tag.

Even more drastic is the San Francisco based Theil Fellowship program which provides $100,000 scholarships if students drop out of college to start their own business by “hacking” their education. By hacking one’s education, these entrepreneurs look to follow in the footsteps of drop-outs such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. This Theil Fellowship model questions the need for formalized higher education. The documentary warns, though, that these successful college drop-out entrepreneurs are possibly the exception, not the rule.

The technology of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) present another option. Coursework becomes openly available to anyone with an internet connection, yet the solution is imperfect. MOOCs struggle to provide feedback and support to students. Community colleges were applauded for their usage of MOOC content with an in-classroom faculty member to facilitate content understanding.

Though Ivory Tower didn’t provide concrete answers for solving the issue of the student loan crisis, it did throw the doors of this discussion wide open. We as a society must either find a way to better fund education, use technology to improve the platforms for delivering education to lower cost or completely rethink the value of higher education.

I still believe in higher education… do you?

Homework:
Watch the documentary and join the discussion.

Resource:
Rossi, A. (2014) Ivory Tower. United States of America: Participant Media, Paramount Pictures & Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Amanda Randolph Scott, M.A.Ed.
Senior Strategic Enrollment Consultant