Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… May 2020

­May. Uncertainty continues as colleges and universities begin to announce an “intent” to open in the fall, replete with­ caveats. The definition of “open” remains flexible. No early word yet on May 1 enrollment deposits from the majority of schools that did not extend until June 1. Those reports should start soon.

This newsletter focuses on an uncertain area: digital marketing. Nobody can say for sure what to expect. My intent is to provide links to articles that speak to digital marketing that you can visit in search of information helpful as you adapt to change. What we do know is that many traditional marketing efforts used to recruit students and raise money are in disarray. ­ Change is here. The future is fuzzy.

The June 3 online “Higher Ed Digital Conference” from Karine Joly at HigherEdExperts is “entirely focused on digital content, strategy and processes.” Tell Karine where you heard of the event if you register and you will get “complimentary on-demand access to 3 sessions of 10 minutes each focusing on content accessibility” from a recent social media conference. Session and presenter details are here.

Join 820+ higher education professionals on the Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group at LinkedIn. Visit to see higher education’s best task-oriented alumni relations site. Request membership at

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And now, your marketing news and notes for May.
Cartoon of the Month: Urgency, Clarity… and Digital Transformation

Higher education was/is in a scramble to respond to campus closings these last few weeks and find new ways to communicate with faculty, staff, and students. “Digital” suddenly assumed a new importance.

How much did your efforts resemble the activities that Tom Fishburne includes in “urgency without clarity in digital transformation”?
Digital Marketing Trends: 42 Elements “You Can’t Ignore”

Here’s the most comprehensive grouping of digital marketing elements you might add to your kit bag. Indeed, you are likely already using many of these. But not all of them.

My favorites included (2), programmatic advertising, (6), video marketing, (12) social media stories, and (28) Google ads smart bidding. Your choices no doubt will differ.

Visit the full array at “42 Digital Marketing Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2020”.
Digital Marketing Trends: Infographic Reviews 5 Major Areas

Nancy Kapoor, senior digital marketing associate at Grazitti Interactive, presents “Top 5 Digital Marketing Trends for 2020” in an easy-to-review infographic style: (1) Interactive Content, (2) AR and VR, (3) New-breed SEO, (4) Social Commerce, and (5) Smart Bidding in Google Ads.

Consider this a guide to help identify elements that you might want to explore in more depth to improve your own marketing success. Although every section is important you likely cannot work on each one at the same time. Priorities will differ.

Find more on each of the 5 points at “5 Digital Marketing Trends to Focus On During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Digital Marketing Caveat: Menus and Links Can Kill Your Website Success

For the last decade higher education websites have been a critical “first impression” point for potential students. Trends aside, your website is more important now than ever before.

Websites most often fail because the people who visit them find that the “menus and links” don’t work well to help them get to the content needed to complete the task that brought them to the site.

Gerry McGovern highlights this neglect when he writes: “The vast majority of websites and apps do not need AI to help people find things. They instead need to create classification and navigation that have been carefully thought about and designed.”

To help make your website as marketing strong as possible in the new digital world, share/discuss Gerry’s latest article: “Creating clear menus and links.”
Content Marketing: Survival+ in the New World

Stephanie Stahl starts with the note that digital paid advertising is in “precipitous decline,” while also noting that she does not think that “social platforms will go back to the good old algorithms when significant organic reach was possible without pending a dime.”

The truth re the role of paid ads likely is somewhere in between two extremes. But for sure advertising spend will happen more carefully as budgets are reduced and for sure the right content (defined as what potential students want to know) remains paramount.

More on content marketing now and beyond at “Content Marketing Can Do More than Survive in the New World.
Working with Digital Agencies: 3 Change Areas to Review

If you work with a higher education marketing agency you already know that elements of the relationship will change. Not working with a “digital” agency? Every agency is about to tell us it is expert in digital marketing.

John Lincoln, CEO of Ignite Visibility, offers insights in 3 areas: (1) Strategy with Change, (2) Organization, and (3) Communication.

Pay special attention to how agencies and clients will communicate at “3 ways digital marketing agencies will change due to COVID-19.”
Digital Printing: 3 Questions to Ask

Digital printing offers an opportunity to segment and personalize mailings (Yes, direct mail like email marketing never died) to increase both initial impact and eventual conversions. If done with restraint.

Mike Dietz poses 3 questions: (1) Is Digital Printing the Right Way to Go? (2) How Many Versions Should I Create, and (3) What Elements Should be Variable?

Mike rightly warns against becoming overly personal (his word is “creepy” just because you have data to allow that. Rather than personalization, focus instead on segmentation, particularly if you know a potential student’s area of academic interest. Almost everyone asks for academic interest on an inquiry form. Few actually use that in print or email follow-ups. And so those who segment can competitive advantage. Digital printing allows segmentation at reasonable cost.

More on 3 digital printing questions at “3 Questions to Ask When Designing for Digital Printing.”
Southern New Hampshire University: A Most Unusual COVID-19 Response

No, most private sector colleges cannot afford to give a full tuition scholarship to 100 percent of this year’s freshman class. And to reduce tuition in subsequent years to $10,000. But neither do most private sector colleges enroll 130,000+ online students to help support a full-time traditional enrollment of about 3,000 students.

Special attention: SNHU also plans early implementation of a plan to increase educational time spent online by campus students.

More on the SNHU plan at “An important message for incoming fall 2020 freshmen.”
College Presidents: Actions in Response to COVID-19 Impact”

Financial actions anticipated or already taken by college and university presidents in an American Council on Education survey are not especially surprising. Freezing faculty & staff hiring and deferring capital projects are popular while tuition refunds and declaring financial exigency are not. Staff layoffs are more likely than faculty layoffs.

Responses to “Remote Learning and Operations” readiness were more surprising, to me at least. See those as well as responses for “Emergency Aid for Students” and “Student Mental Health” at “College and University Presidents Respond to COVID-19: April 2020 Survey.”
Most Popular Topic in April Newsletter: “Virtual Collaboration” Cartoon

Everyone is placing great reliance on virtual meetings as most folk work from home. Tom Fishburne noted the tech challenges in his “Virtual Collaboration” cartoon. As an added bonus, there’s a link to a Harvard Business Review article, “What it Takes to Run a Great Virtual Meeting.

Your pathway to stronger virtual meetings starts here.

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