Presidents’ Welcome Messages… a dead spot on higher ed websites

Welcome Messages from Presidents: Very Little Marketing Impact

Last week while looking for a possible new Link of the Week selection I did a search for “presidents’ university welcome statements.” And then, in a spasm of ongoing torture, visited all the welcome statements that appeared on the first four pages.

If you want to find last bastions of banal content from presidents at just about every type of college and university, force yourself through the same exercise. Do presidents ever ask for the analytics on how many people actually visit and stay on their welcome page long enough to read the message? 
Two major problems are common. 
  • First, the content is almost always presented as dense text unbroken by subheads, bullet points or links. In other words, it is almost always impossible to scan. And that means that very many visitors will not even make the effort to find out what’s being said.
  • Second, the content itself more often than not includes a collection of platitudes that might fit just about any college or university. The idea of creating something that contributes to a distinct brand identify does not seem alive and well in the president’s office or among those who write these things if the president does not.
Consider these opening comments from three university presidents as a sample:
  • “Steeped in history yet in the lead; demanding but caring; remarkably diverse in its people, its interests, its opportunities for personal and intellectual growth; and rooted in a tradition of service…”
  • “(University name) is clearly a very special place. In addition to the faculty, who are excellent teachers and scholars, everyone at (University name) is eager to help students learn and live well. This is a beautiful campus in an outstanding academic and physical environment.”
  • “We take great pride in our history and in the exceptional opportunities we offer to students. That pride shows in everything we do — indeed, great things happen here every day.”
Exceptions of course exist. 
One that stood out started (after just a few lines of text) with a video that turned out to be the president’s opening semester message. Congrats to someone at University of Iowa for crafting a short (just over 2 minutes), simple, friendly video greeting from President Sally Mason. Yes, the first 60 seconds or so include the usual words you’ll find everywhere. Things improve in the next 60 seconds with visuals of improvement taking place around the campus. Why don’t more presidents’ welcome pages use video?
Visit President George Martin’s welcome at St. Edward’s University where the opening headline just might make you want to scan a bit more: “On Becoming Unstoppable.” If you do scan the page you’ll find 5 subheads for “Highlights and Hallmarks” of the university. And those would be even stronger with links from each section to more information about them.
Links on President Christina Paxson’s welcome at Brown University are not especially easy to see, but they do exist. When the president notes, for instance, a “distinctive approach to education” there is a link to “Brown gives students the freedom to direct their education.” Without that link to the additional content, a claim to a “distinctive approach” would have little value.
Remedial action for President’s Welcome Messages
In 2014 let’s hope that some combination of these steps take place:
  • Messages will pass the 5-second rule by being easy to scan for major points that are likely to engage visitors. 
  • If it fits the president’s personality, more use of video to deliver the message.
  • Links to more content about major points about the university. Don’t just claim, demonstrate the substance behind the claim.
  • Serious editing of the total length and paragraph size.
That’s all for now.

Subscribe to “Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter” for monthly marketing news and notes and weekly Link of the Week selections.
Join 6,500+ people and follow me on Twitter
“Writing Right for the Web” conference in March

March 27-28, Denver: “Writing Right for the Web: Focusing on Student Recruitment” sponsored by Academic Impressions. Agenda and registration at 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *