Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… October 2020

October. The COVID-19 academic year moves forward in fits and starts. Some schools are doing relatively well. Others are not doing well at all. Hoping for more successes than failures between now and the Thanksgiving pause. One thing seems more certain: spring semester will be more like fall than the fondly remembered “normal.” And to use a cliché, the “new normal,” whatever it is, will be quite different than pre-COVID days.

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And now, your October marketing news and notes.
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Cartoon of the Month: “sales impact of advertising”

Ads for “long term brand building” vs. “tacky direct response ads” are beloved by too many agencies that don’t like clients asking accountability questions about their advertising expenses.

The divide between measurable immediate response ads and long-term brand advertising has existed for decades. That’s sad as adopting a strategy that blends both approaches for better ROI indeed is possible.

More from Tom Fishburne on how to get the best results for your advertising spend at “sales impact of advertising.”
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Admissions Director Survey: “fear and anxiety spread throughout higher education”

Inside Higher Education, with the support of several marketing agencies, conducted an August survey of admissions directors with 433 “senior admissions officials” responding.

It isn’t surprising that 2020 was a difficult year, with a majority of respondents not meeting admissions goals this year by July 1, let along May 1. Most expected to see a 2020 enrollment decrease.

Findings included an increased focus on recruiting online students (51% to 62% of schools), less emphasis on international students (45% to 31%), and some willingness to admit students that would not have been admitted in the past (28%).

Read an Inside Higher Ed results summary and download full results in 20-page PDF at “2020 Survey of Admissions Leaders: A Mess of a Year.”
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COVID-19: Tracking colleges across the county

Follow COVID-19 outbreaks at 91 colleges and universities across the U.S. Large schools, small schools. Public and Private sectors. Info is as accurate as schools update their public records.

Sort by total cases or cases in the last 7 days or 4-level alert status from red (7 schools) to green (25 schools).

Visit “College COVID-19 Outbreak Watchlist.”
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COVID-19: Higher education changes to expect

Back in April the Chronicle of Higher Education asked 23 higher education faculty, administrators, and observers to write brief articles on how they expected COVID to impact higher education.

Now is a good time to read these and see which predictions seem most likely in light of what’s been happening these last months.

See “How Will the Pandemic Change Higher Education?
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Jeff Selingo: “College admissions is never going to be the same”

Selingo, author of “Who Gets in and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions” was interviewed by Frank Bruni on his predictions re the impact of COVID-19 on the admissions world at selective colleges (his book is based on access to admissions programs at 3 selective schools).

His predictions include greater reliance on early admission decisions, less emphasis on SAT and ACT scores, more student interest in course catalogs and faculty credentials, a decreased marketing role for physical campus attributes… and more.

See “The Coronavirus May Change College Admissions Forever.”
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Content Inventories & Audits: A Nielsen Norman Guide

Your website remains the center of your digital marketing efforts. Keeping potential students happy when they visit your site is essential to successful recruiting. Nielsen Norman Group conducted a qualitative study with 16 participants to prepare a guide to inventory and audit completion.

For most people, starting with an inventory makes the most sense to get a complete picture of everything on a website. Most organizations, including colleges and universities, will find that there is far too much content. Reducing that content (alas, few people get paid to do that) will make it easier to navigate and search a site so that visitors complete their top tasks as quickly as possible. Speed counts.

A content audit focuses on the value of the content and whether or not it is presented in a web-friendly style that makes it easy for visitors to scan and read it. Content presented as long unbroken text blocks without subheads, for instance, does not bring website happiness.

The report includes a “Content Inventory and Auditing Template” you can download at no cost.

Review guideline details at “Content Inventory and Auditing 101.”
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Content Marketing Rules: 23 Ways to Break Them

From the Content Marketing Institute comes advice from 23 experts on when and how you might break 23 content marketing rules that are not always applicable. You can scan the 23 easily to find the ones that you think are most important.

Two stood out for me: “People have short attention spans” and “People don’t like long content.” Reality is that if the content is important to people and it is presented (see above) in an easy to review style, people will pay attention and read it. Think, for instance, content about your Architecture program for potential students who plan to major in Architecture.

More valuable tips in Ann Gynn’s “These Content Marketing Rules Are Made to Be Broken.”
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New Book: “How to Market a University: Building Value in a Competitive Environment”

Terry Flannery, once the chief marketing person at American University and recently appointed as the chief marketing person at Stony Brook University, is sharing her higher education marketing wisdom in a new book available in January.

Plan ahead. Read a summary of the contents and pre-order your copy on Amazon now.
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New Book: “Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World”

Available now is Josie Ahlquist’s guide to how higher education leaders can best succeed in a world that will only get more “digital” than it is today. Great gift for anyone on a president’s cabinet if minds are open.

Intro to the 3 sections of the book and topics covered in the 12 chapters are at “Digital Leadership in Higher Education.”
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Most Popular Topic in September Newsletter: Washington Monthly 2020 college rankings

Washington Monthly’s rankings are an attempt to add the “good” done by colleges and universities into a ranking scheme: “we rate schools based on what they do for the country. It’s our answer to the U.S. News & World Report, which relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige.”

You will find some familiar results. Among the top 10 national universities, Stanford is first, Harvard second, and MIT third. But you’ll see Utah State University as #10.

Among liberal arts colleges Amherst and Wesleyan University are first and second. And Berea College takes the #3 position.

Rankings differ more from what you might expect when you check Master’s Universities and Bachelor’s Colleges.

Check your school and your competitors at “Washington Monthly 2020 College Rankings.”
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Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D.

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