GPRS Higher Education Marketing Agency


GPRS Higher Education Marketing Agency

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Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | July 16th, 2020

Admissions testing: What you communicate is as important as the decisions you make

Admissions testing: What you communicate is as important as the decisions you makeAs many schools are finalizing their incoming class rosters for the Fall, several questions are looming for prospects, admissions staff, faculty and administration alike. As part of the admissions process, you’ve likely been trying to remove as many barriers as possible for your students. You want them to feel comfortable attending your program, whether in-person or virtually, in the Fall. One such question is admissions testing.

Regardless of whether you’ve waived the testing requirement, delayed score submissions or started offering new testing options, it’s been a series of tough decisions. But the communication surrounding it can be even trickier as it relates to protecting your brand.

Addressing concerns in your communications

Admissions testing is valued by the many stakeholders of your program, your brand and your school. While altering your admissions process may seem risky, well-crafted internal and external communications can address everyone’s concerns. Let’s examine some of them here:

  • Alumni see the test as a rite of passage. It’s a value indicator for the quality of students who are admitted and graduate into the network.
  • What about current students who just last year took the test as a requirement of the admissions process?
  • Faculty and administration see the admissions test as a predictor of self-discipline and success in some courses.
  • What precedent are you setting for the future? What are the long-term implications?

Admissions testing reality: Executive Assessment, GMAT, GRE

In March and April, Executive Assessment (EA), GMAT and GRE testing was cancelled or delayed due to COVID-19. In late April and May, online testing became widely available and it continues to be an option. Some test sites are beginning to open with safety measures in place. The online versions are designed to support candidates working to meet upcoming application deadlines. All fees for rescheduling tests have currently been waived to give greater flexibility to students and institutions alike.

Although these options offer a stop-gap and a way to continue to screen students within the admissions process, you may not have known these would have been options when you were forced to make hard decisions during the height of the Spring stay-at-home-orders. Regardless of what your program decides, it’s important to continue delivering a clear, consistent message to your prospects and stakeholders covering the why’s and how’s of what’s next.

How schools are handling admissions testing

By doing a scan of your competitors and speaking with your peers at other schools, you can find out what others are doing. Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • Test waivers on a case-by-case basis
  • Online test options for EA, GMAT and GRE
  • The option to submit expired scores (within the last 5 years)
  • Offering conditional admission, pending a test scheduled in the future
  • Giving the option to submit current test scores (even if not within the required range) and apply for a waiver
  • One-on-one consultations to discuss admissions requirements

Communication tips

While marketing has always been a key pillar in your recruiting strategy, it is even more important now. As you are making decisions about the admissions process that impact multiple stakeholders, here are some key ways to shape your communications efforts via email, digital advertising, your website and social media:

  • Stay consistent. If you’ve made a decision on new testing requirements, continue that message through the end of your current recruiting cycle. For example, if you waived a test, or changed a test type and have admitted students with those new requirements, continue on the path vs. changing the requirements now that new options are available.
  • Explain your reasoning. It’s important to communicate why you have required a test in the past, why you are changing your stance in the current environment and what you are doing to maintain the integrity and rigor of your admissions process.
  • Acknowledge that the future is unknown. While you can’t make guarantees for the future, you can reassure your stakeholders and prospects you are doing all you can to assess the current situation and you will be adjusting your plans carefully. Although you may be concerned you are setting a precedent, it’s important to reiterate these are “unprecedented times.” Your goal is to ensure quality while the entire higher ed industry has been upended.

As you navigate this time of uncertainty, don’t hesitate to lean on partners who have experience in branding, digital marketing and messaging. GPRS can help you evaluate the industry trends, quickly shift your digital advertising and brainstorm ways to pivot your messaging to protect your most valued asset – your brand.


Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | June 30th, 2020

Protecting your brand in a time of judgement

Protecting your brand in a time of judgementAccording to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

And at the moment, most of us are not “in the room” together. So how, during this pandemic, can higher ed institutions protect their brands when electronic communications are replacing in-person interactions and it’s more important than ever to “get it right”?

A brand identity is a delicate balance of your values, personality, promise, communications and what you want people to feel when they interact with you. Most importantly, it gives people a reason to trust you. But that can change quickly.

In today’s hyper-sensitive environment, just one statement can polarize an entire group and all eyes are on how we react online, in communications and on social media. The brands succeeding are pivoting their communications to address adversity, lead with confidence and emphasize commitment to their students.

Re-evaluating (and enhancing) your brand promise

Although your brand promise can help you sell an educational experience, career development, a network and personal development, right now, it also needs to:

  • Display your resilience
  • Illustrate corporate social responsibility
  • Convey a promise of safety

Brands right now need to go above and beyond. Higher ed institutions are no exception. Returning to the basic tenants of branding with a SWOT analysis can help your school make the necessary communication shifts needed.

  • Strengths – positive things that give you an advantage in the market
  • Weaknesses – challenges that give you a disadvantage or areas for improvement
  • Opportunities – ways you can adapt to capitalize on change
  • Threats – things that cause you problems on a larger scale

You may need to expand upon your brand promise and take it a step further to relate it to the current situation. For example, brands in higher education tend to focus on belonging, advancement, personal scale and continuous learning. In a time where prospects are looking for a safe space where they can accomplish their goals, reiterating these ideals can go a long way to strengthen the relationship.

Re-evaluating your target’s needs

What mattered to your audience a few short months ago has most likely changed. Although their core values may remain the same, the situation has dictated an extreme pivot in priorities. If education and career development isn’t on their priority list, your communications can sound tone deaf if they are not addressing their needs. The tricky part is that there are so many opinions swirling around right now relating to COVID and recent events that it’s really difficult to tell where people fall. They may have lost their jobs, may be caring for a family member, homeschooling, attempting to work from home and struggling with uncertainty.

If you don’t want to lose them, a fair dose of empathy and confidence can go a long way. People are being inundated by communications from everywhere. They can check out and unsubscribe if it’s too much. Less is more. Try addressing your prospects’ concerns in a neutral, informational fashion vs. giving opinions – and keep the focus on them.

Communication tips for protecting your brand

  • Minimize polarization by keeping things neutral and informational
  • Put a hold on opinion pieces right now
  • Avoid attachment to political stances and public figures
  • Avoid making negative statements – replace with authentic positivity
  • Reinforce your brand promise
  • Avoid information overload
  • Address adversity confidently
  • Reassure students, prospects and influencers you are focused on safety
  • Use social media carefully

As you navigate this time of uncertainty, lean on partners who have experience in branding, digital presence and messaging. GPRS can help you quickly shift your digital advertising and brainstorm ways to pivot your messaging to protect your most valued asset – your brand.



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For over two decades, GPRS has been a trusted higher education marketing agency, offering custom solutions to institutions of all sizes and degree types. Admissions directors, marketing directors, deans, and presidents rely on GPRS to provide a depth of services, including strategy, lead generation, digital marketing, nurture communications, recruiting, and analytics.

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