GPRS Higher Education Marketing Agency


GPRS Higher Education Marketing Agency

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Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | November 30th, 2020

Are the latest social platforms a fit for your school?

Are the latest social platforms a fit for your school?You may have heard your peers in higher ed or your digital agency talking about advertising on Spotify, Pandora, Reddit, Pinterest or even TikTok. These social platforms have become commonplace everyday “stops” for many people, especially as mobile usage has grown during the pandemic. And they can be extremely valuable for reaching a wide audience. But how do you know which platforms are right for your school, and whether or not they will help you achieve your recruiting and enrollment goals?

Brief definitions

Let’s start with a brief definition of each platform before we delve into their marketing benefits.

  • Spotify/Pandora: Digital streaming service for music, videos and podcasts. There are free versions with ads and monthly subscriptions that offer ad-free playtime and playlist customization.
  • Pinterest: A social network that allows users to search and share ideas for style, home and design inspiration. You “pin” your favorites to your board so you can access them later and easily share with others.
  • Reddit: A social news platform that encourages discussion and commenting on shared content through ratings and votes.
  • TikTok: A social media platform that allows people to create and share short videos set to music.

A note about social media usage

In a study published in August 2020, internet users (age 16-64) report using social media approximately 2 hours and 22 minutes per day. And since the start of the pandemic, at least 28% report increasing their usage.

The same study shows a shift in popularity of most-used social media platforms as it relates to monthly active users. While Facebook and YouTube remain in the top spots, TikTok, Reddit and Pinterest all rank higher than Twitter for those that are logging into their accounts vs. just searching the platform for general news.

Other interesting data points include:

Globally, social media is now the #2 most popular destination for brand research (behind search engines).

Among internet users in the age range of 18-55+, approximately 47-67% (depending on the age segment) are using social media as a main source of news.

When you are using social media to complement your marketing and communications plan, a high viewership is almost always guaranteed. However, with any marketing tactic the key is to make sure that your content is reaching the right age group with the right message at the right time.

How do I evaluate what social platforms are right for my school?

It starts with your strategy:

  • If it’s brand awareness, you want to cast a broad net. Spotify or Pandora could benefit you through contact with a wide range of demographics.
  • If it’s driving engagement, try out interactive content like a quiz (Reddit) or shareable content like a video (TikTok) or idea board (Pinterest).
  • If it’s lead generation, you’ll want a platform that allows users to fill out forms. While Facebook and LinkedIn, Twitter & Instagram have traditionally occupied this space, Reddit is now an option. Reddit has a sponsored headline campaign allowing advertisers to generate leads to their website (or landing page) to collect information.

Then, on to your audience:

  • Be sure that your demographics line up with the viewership of the platform.
  • Be sure that your content will resonate.
  • Think about how you want your content to influence the viewer.

How is higher ed using social platforms right now?

Spotify/Pandora – Schools may benefit from either audio ads, display ads or sponsored sessions that allow you to insert rich media like videos that can engage prospective students. Both platforms let you segment your advertising by behavioral categories in addition to traditional demographics.

Pinterest – Although Pinterest is used less frequently for higher ed institutions, you can find ways to have a presence for a low investment. Try posting existing digital assets that have a broad appeal, like student testimonials, admissions checklists, test prep tips and infographics on program benefits.

Reddit – You may be surprised to know that your brand is already circulating on Reddit. Why not listen to what’s being said and find ways to respond in an authentic, helpful and transparent way?

TikTok – Some schools are using this platform to engage prospects that are looking for a “day in the life” viewpoint. They may hire “talent” to create videos with the intent of showcasing the campus, student life or admissions.

Need help?

If you’re interested in learning more about how these and other social media platforms can fit into your school’s marketing and recruiting strategy, GPRS can help.


Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | November 16th, 2020

The importance of personal connection during pandemic admissions

Has the recruiting during the pandemic dictated new admissions criteria for your school?By now, it is not new news that colleges have had to drastically alter their admissions process. In both undergrad and higher ed institutions alike, requirements have quickly shifted as a result of the pandemic limitations. Schools that never intended to veer from their admissions “rites of passage” have been forced to change their processes or risk being changed by the landscape.

While you’ve held certain criteria requirements, you may find that your program is trying to find alternative ways to determine students’ viability while your typical screening methods are being challenged.

Replacement criterion

A recent article in the New York Times examined how some undergrad schools are finding replacement criterion. The article suggests that for college admissions during COVID-19, “SATs are out, personal stories are in.” It seems that in light of the pandemic, many schools are beginning to favor a more personal approach that requires students to dig into and demonstrate their “sense of self” which may prove to become more valuable over time than test scores to predict success in higher education.

This is not to say that the importance of test scores should be diminished, especially in the higher ed space. They have been, and continue to be, solid gauges of the hard skills required to succeed in finance, economics and operations courses. But in a time when the soft skills are crucial to survival, resiliency and adaptability are starting to emerge as strong traits that exhibit a person’s propensity to perform under pressure, and can dictate how well they will do in a demanding MBA or higher ed program.

Using personal stories as a gauge of fitness

Because submitting a personal story isn’t something someone can “study for,” admissions staff can use data from responses to determine natural creativity and adaptability as key predictors of success. It’s possible for you to come up with an objective grading scale that examines and scores qualities on a scale, such as:

  • Creativity
  • Uniqueness
  • Authenticity
  • Empathy
  • Honesty
  • Resilience

Since your admissions process likely already includes several touchpoints that are aimed at getting to know someone — a personal interview, an essay, multiple conversations — the suggestion is not to add another requirement. It is simply that you may put more weight on their responses. And using a quantitative grading scale can help you assess prospects more objectively and place them with confidence.

What questions to ask when soliciting a personal story

Although we’re all ready for COVID-19 to make an exit from our lives, it’s unlikely that will happen anytime soon. It’s also unlikely that you will meet anyone that has not been impacted in some way by the pandemic. Whether emotionally, financially or physically, everyone has seen the side effects of what the virus has done to our communities, country and world. Rather than gloss over the topic, leaning into the narrative can actually benefit us in the way we relate to each other. And getting a prospect’s take on what they’ve lost, gained and taken away from this experience can shed light on how they react in the face of adversity.

Here are a few questions you could ask prospects during the admissions process. Whether in an essay or interview format, be sure to find ways to quantify the response. You don’t want to get too caught up in your emotional response to their response.

  • What limitations did the pandemic place on you personally and professionally?
  • How did you handle the stress of the pandemic?
  • What did you add or remove from your daily routine as a result of restrictions?
  • What is your daily life/routine like now?
  • In what ways have you shown leadership in your community, workplace and personal life during this time?
  • What are you looking forward to the most in a post-pandemic world?

Moving forward

While you will certainly be placing more weight on transcripts and references in the coming admissions cycles, finding ways to assess a prospect’s ability to overcome challenges could become a new mainstay in your process — and you might even find something new and helpful to take away from the pandemic, too.

Need help?

If you need help with altering or improving your admissions processes, GPRS can help. Think of us as your partner during the pandemic to help shape and meet your new enrollment goals.


Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | October 30th, 2020

How do you pivot your branding and marketing when your programs have changed?

How do you pivot your branding and marketing when your programs have changed?By now, it is likely that your school has a statement on its homepage following all of the changes COVID-19 has created in the higher education space. However, if the plan only goes so far as detailing what the overall university is doing, you may need to take it a step further to communicate how your individual programs will operate within your business school.

While you have made efforts to maintain your brand, even during a time of great adversity, functional elements of how you offer programs, what it feels like to be part of a cohort and the physical space where students are learning may be greatly altered. Communication is key to creating and maintaining your relationships with leads, prospects and applicants during this time and there are a few things you can do to encourage them to begin and follow through with the enrollment process.

So many changes

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing the cascade of questions that are currently facing programs:

  • International travel – From an MBA that offers spring break immersions to a Global Executive MBA program that involves travel to multiple continents, the landscape will look different this year.
  • Class delivery – Whether you’re offering in-person, virtual or hybrid approaches, the student experience will be altered.
  • Internships and recruiting – With many large companies working from home and limiting travel, internships may be tricky to manage.
  • Admissions events – Although in-person meetings, campus tours and preview days — all key components to recruiting — may be on hold, you may need to find creative ways to give prospects a view into campus life.
  • Admissions testing – Stay consistent and explain your reasoning for any alteration in admissions testing requirements.

Although it is easy to get overwhelmed with the logistics, it’s important to remember that your prospects definitely have the same questions and may be intimidated to start the application process before they know all the details. Don’t let ambiguity be a barrier for your prospects.

Where you can make a difference

Plans are changing often — are your communications? Here are some ways to ensure students have the information they need to make key decisions. By implementing some of these tactics, you can maintain your relationships with your prospects. You may even have the opportunity to gain students from different geographic locations, demographics and backgrounds.

  • Your website: Although you don’t need to alter your entire website (and this is not recommended due to the amount of time it would take), you can create banner statements on each program page that ensure your prospects that you have a plan. End with a call to action to schedule a casual conversation or attend a webinar.
  • Your events: Host webinars or town hall-style virtual chats where your admissions staff can address questions. You don’t have to have all the answers — just showing transparency and a willingness to engage while you’re working through the details can go a long way. Podcasts can also be a good way to personally communicate with prospects where they are.
  • Your digital ads: Don’t be afraid to address the elephant in the room. Try creating a digital campaign that offers details about altered course delivery, how you’ll maintain the student experience and ways you’re striving to keep everyone safe and healthy.
  • Your mobile strategy: Find ways that you can optimize your marketing budget with cost-effective solutions that target your prospects directly on their mobile devices.
  • Your keywords: Now’s a great time to write blogs that add keyword-rich and searchable content to your website. Employ admissions staff, student ambassadors and alumni to write about the changes that are happening. This organic content, especially as it is related to COVID-19, will boost your searchability that can lead to increased traffic.

It’s important to remember that you are currently marketing and recruiting in an ever-changing environment. The challenges the higher education market is facing are unprecedented. But quickly pivoting (and continuing to do so) will pay off as you seek to instill confidence in your prospects.

Need help?

If you need help with website alterations, promoting virtual events, altering your advertising campaign or writing keyword-rich content that can increase your leads and enrollment, GPRS can offer solutions.


Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | October 15th, 2020

Finding ways to evaluate last year’s marketing effectiveness

Finding ways to evaluate last year’s marketing effectivenessHow do you evaluate marketing effectiveness and enrollment in a year where benchmarks are out the window?

Before you begin planning for the upcoming recruiting year, you may be staring down the seemingly impossible task of evaluating last year’s enrollment goals and marketing plan effectiveness.

The 2019-2020 cycle may seem like a blur as you tackle questions about spending, engagement, quality leads, yield, cost-per-seated student and enrollment goals. How do you determine what worked and what didn’t in a year where everything turned upside down?

Here are a few ideas on where to start.

Break the year into segments

For this exercise, we will focus on a recruiting year that runs August-July. Feel free to adjust based on your start date, or if you have additional cohorts.

Consider for a moment, that there were approximately eight months (August – March) that were—for all intents and purposes—“normal.” If you are benchmarking YOY data on spending and leads, breaking the year up this way will help you apply a lens for comparison. Using your CRM, you can also match up leads from that period to enrollments and determine a cost-per-seated student.

For the four months that followed (April – July), benchmarks were sidelined in favor of adjusted enrollment goals, spending reallocations and altered recruiting strategies. Now is a good time to revisit those adjustments and plans you made to see if you reached any of those goals. Realize that goals were a moving target and celebrate even small victories or accomplishments.

Evaluate how you pivoted, throw out the benchmarks

This past year was a time of uncertainty and adjustment. You were forced to alter your plans in ways you’ve never been asked to do, during your key recruiting period. On the road events? Cancelled. Campus tours, preview days and interviews? Moved online. Digital advertising strategy designed to bring in leads? Halted or altered.

When you look back on the ways you pivoted your marketing and recruitment strategy at warp speed, were you moving so fast that you forgot to keep track?

Now is a great time to jot down these alterations so you can chart your successes and incorporate them into planning for the upcoming year.

  • What platforms worked best for virtual events?
  • What social content got the highest engagement?
  • What types of events had the most attendees?
  • What did yield look like?
  • What were the best ways to personally connect with prospective students?
  • What did your website traffic look like (both YOY and pre-COVID to post)?

Jogging your memory now and keeping track of the things you changed can help you track your successes and incorporate them into the upcoming year.

Look at the final results in context and celebrate successes

Often, marketing and recruiting success is evaluated in black and white terms: Did you meet your enrollment goals? What was your cost-per-seated student? How did digital advertising fare in terms of CPL?

Although using a tracking method to evaluate these benchmarks at key points during the year can certainly give you a window into how well your plan worked, it’s also important to look at the results in context.

And in terms of planning for the future, this may be the time to create new benchmarks that are adjustable to the market and your prospective students’ needs.

Need help?

Navigating the evaluation process and planning upcoming recruiting cycle will be challenging this year. If you need help charting your successes and creating a realistic recruiting plan that can help you gain more quality leads and seated students next year, GPRS can help.


Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | September 30th, 2020

What will the next round of recruiting look like?

What will the next round of recruiting look like?When the Spring 2020 recruiting cycle was upended mid-stream due to COVID-19, many schools had to pivot quickly. Since then, the entire higher education industry including recruiters, marketers and leaders have been operating in pandemic emergency mode, focusing on the short term out of necessity and trying to remain as flexible as possible to address continuous change. As such, there have been significant impacts on recruiting and enrollment in higher ed. However, in thinking about the upcoming recruiting cycle, it may be time to regroup and think long term.

Although you may be staring down challenges to your planning process that include financial pressures, demographic changes and technology innovation, it’s important to realize that the opportunities to reshape your school’s recruiting process are abundant. While you’re developing your projections, enrollment goals and the supporting strategic marketing plans, here are four ways to prepare for the next round of recruiting.

Focus on building community

At a time when many people – your prospective students included – are feeling isolated due to continued social distancing, one-to-one connections are critical. According to an Inside Higher Ed article that examines the community college model of building relationships beyond the traditional college campus experience, checking in on your prospects virtually to address their needs can mean the difference between yielding a student or losing them.

Invest in technology

If there was ever a time to upgrade your digital technology, it’s now. Let’s face it, the online recruiting events you begrudgingly accepted last Spring in hopes that they would be temporary, are not going anywhere. In fact, it appears that they may become a staple in the foreseeable future. Be sure your internal tech partners are up to the challenge and your team allocates the time and resources it will take to learn how to use new meeting platforms and digital collaboration tools.

Continue offering options

Your students (and prospective students) want to know your plan. They are interested in how you are altering your recruiting process including admissions testing, events and application deadlines. They’re also curious about what their degree experience will look like, what shape leadership development and career planning will take and how they’ll interact with other students safely. During a time when there are a wide variety of preferences – in-person, virtual, hybrid— and several barriers to decision making, the most important thing you can do is to instill confidence and set expectations with a clearly laid-out plan, addressing as many concerns as possible and clearly outlining what they can expect.

Remain flexible

According to many higher education leaders, thinking long term – although difficult when the future is unsettled – is critical. If it’s possible, find a way to create a roadmap that allows for quick alterations. Contingency plans can give your team and prospective students confidence that you’re prepared to pivot quickly and efficiently when needed.

Need help?

Navigating the upcoming recruiting cycle will be challenging. But developing a strategic plan that builds community, integrates technology, offers options and allows for alterations can help you meet your enrollment goals. If you need help creating a realistic recruiting plan that can help you gain more quality leads and seated students, GPRS can help.


Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | April 23rd, 2020

Adding podcasts to your digital asset mix – and how to leverage them

Adding podcasts to your digital asset mix – and how to leverage themYou don’t have to be intimidated by podcasts. In fact, creating them and leveraging them may be easier than you think. Read on for some tips on developing this unique and sustainable form of content to add to your school’s marketing strategy.

It may seem that everyone (including your competition) is jumping on the podcast bandwagon. And to some degree, that is true. Giving your students multiple ways to connect with your brand can benefit your school. Podcasts can be crucial to your media mix because they are:

  • Personal and emotional
  • Easy and inexpensive to produce
  • Evergreen
  • Accessible and convenient
  • Unique and engaging

So, you’ve decided that you’d like to brave the waters and try something new with a podcast. But where do you start, what tools will you need and how can you add it appropriately to your school’s digital library?

The tools you need

To create a podcast, here is what you’ll need to get started:

  • A good microphone kit: Try one that is portable with easy set-up and dependable audio quality so you can record in a noisy setting like a classroom, on the phone with an alum or in a quiet office with an admissions director.
  • A program for editing audio content: There are several free versions available or you can purchase one for podcasters of all levels online. This type of software will allow you to edit your voice and clean/organize content the way you want it.
  • A way to post it online: Your school may already have a cloud-based hosting site, but if not, you can usually set up a basic account to post and archive content.

Content ideas

Higher education is ripe with ideas for podcast content. Since pursuing a degree is such a personal decision, your prospects will appreciate your efforts. Give them information they can use to evaluate whether your program is right for them. Here are some ideas:

  • Interviews with current students on immersions, clubs, projects, coursework, internships and plans after graduation.
  • Discussions with alumni on ROI, meaningful moments from the program, how their network has helped them in their career path and leadership lessons.
  • Q+A sessions with faculty giving a deep dive into topics from a specific course, i.e. finance, marketing, leadership, international business, etc.
  • A counseling session with recruiting staff that debunks admissions myths, gives advice on the application process or offers insight on choosing the right program for you.
  • A catch-up conversation with your dean.

How to leverage podcasts in your school’s marketing

Once you’ve created your podcasts, it’s important to post them on your website in a central repository. Whether it’s your newsroom or a dedicated podcast page, having them in one spot will help with search value. You can also weave them into different pages throughout your site — especially the admissions sections — to create more engagement.

Here are some additional ways you can use podcasts:

  • Share on social media with a teaser and link to the podcast.
  • Summarize the podcast content in a blog and the link to it for reference (this helps with SEO).
  • Send them out in admissions emails as they are relevant to the topic.
  • Post them on your YouTube channel with an accompanying slideshow.

As you are searching for ways to strengthen your higher ed digital advertising and marketing content, podcasts can improve your searchability, reach and access to prospective students. Find more ways to leverage this content by contacting GPRS. We can help you weave this content into your existing marketing strategy and grow your prospects with meaningful content that tells your school’s story.


Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | April 8th, 2020

Leveraging alumni stories to boost your digital strategy

Leveraging alumni stories to boost your digital strategyEvery graduate program claims to have rigorous academics, highly regarded faculty and fantastic employment or advancement opportunities. But how do you prove that your institution is worth the investment and that students can anticipate the success they’re seeking? This is where the stories of the students who have benefited from your program and have gone on to do great things can help your digital strategy. Prospects want to see real people that they can relate to and stats that predict desirable future outcomes.

Your school’s brand identity is shaped by how you tell your story. Profiling alumni can be one of the most powerful forms of storytelling. Learn how you can use these stories and their content to boost your digital strategy.

How alumni stories shape your brand

When alumni have shaped the world around them, you want people to know about it. Successful alumni profiles can:

  • Give credibility to your program
  • Showcase the broad and impressive network prospects can connect with
  • Allow prospects to see themselves as part of your program
  • Give current students and alumni a sense of pride
  • Continue alumni engagement, especially if you use a reward system when you feature their accomplishments
  • Add authenticity and a unique perspective that prospects trust
  • Highlight academic excellence with awards and achievements

There are many ways you can use this content to boost your digital strategy. In creating personal content, you can showcase diversity, highlight different programs, and give your marketing a unique look and feel. Take it a step further and make content interactive using podcasts, video or an audio interview tied with a slideshow.

Try these tips for a varied format that will appeal to different demographics:

  • Switch up the format, i.e. use an interview Q+A style, record a video, create a podcast with a member of your recruiting team interacting with a former student.
  • Use photos, but keep them within a consistent brand look and feel
  • Use the alumni as brand ambassadors who agree to interact with students

Find ways to weave alumni stories into your marketing mix

To strengthen your digital presence, you can write about alumni in a blog. Optimize the blog with key search terms and phrases that would usually be hard to work into web content. Since blogs are more conversational, you may find that optimized phrases and questions like “Why is an MBA right for me?” or “My Executive MBA return on investment,” are easier to weave in. Be sure to include accomplishments and awards in social media as messages of congratulations which can not only increase engagement, but also give prospects something to aspire to. And as you’re developing content for your website, digital (and printed brochures) and email marketing, find ways to drive click-throughs with compelling tidbits from success stories.

Choose your alumni wisely

Using alumni at large, recognizable corporations with notable titles are great. People who have won awards, contributed to significant industry innovations or are in the news are always great choices. However, you do not have to have superstar or famous alumni to make an impact in your messaging. And in fact, having the right mix of alumni stories is important so that you don’t intimidate some of your prospects. Try profiling those who have inspiring stories, have switched careers, have made significant gains in leadership skills or who have contributed to their communities and the school.

One caveat

Be sure to monitor the alumni you are using to represent your brand. Try to avoid the political landscape and negative news coverage. Keep them on your radar for when they switch jobs, and be aware of any abrupt exits from companies that could signal issues. Remember the goal is to highlight a desirable path and showcase alumni that are in alignment with your values as an institution.

As you are looking for ways to develop and utilize alumni stories to strengthen your school’s higher education brand, communication and digital advertising, GPRS can help.


Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | March 26th, 2020

The importance of future work even in a time of unprecedented change

What's Next? Recruiting and enrollment and the importance of future work even in a time of unprecedented changeThinking to the future can be overwhelming at the moment, especially when everything is a big question mark. Although you can’t predict what’s coming next for our country during the COVID-19 health crisis, it’s important to continue work on your recruiting and enrollment plans so you will be positioned for success when everything normalizes. Here are some ways to keep an eye on recruiting and enrollment even though your plans are currently being altered.

Recruiting and enrollment events

Although we are just at the beginning of what the CDC calls “social distancing,” and small gatherings have been restricted, there will come a time where people can come back out of quarantine for in-person events. In the meantime, here are a few ideas to consider for hosting events to fill your upcoming class:

  • Plan a couple of months out and determine whether it’s feasible for you to host in-person events in the summer.
  • Consider hosting online recruiting events using zoom, skype or another online forum.
  • Have an admissions member record a video or podcast from a home office.
  • Host a Q&A conference call.

Students want to hear from you on how you will handle admissions and the start of the next academic year. Although you may not have all the answers, be prepared to address their questions. You need to validate their concerns and instill confidence that you’ll work with them every step of the way.

Be sure to track how these new event types perform and lessons learned on hosting them. Some may be sustainable for the upcoming recruiting year.

Marketing strategy and digital advertising

During these unprecedented times, it’s important to remember planning still needs to be done for the coming year. You still need to fill your class and don’t want to lose the momentum you’ve gained with your marketing strategy. Here are a few tips marketers can follow to plan ahead:

  • Track your paid search and paid social data in terms of cost-per-click and impressions in Google Analytics. Information consumption habits are changing right now, and it may just be a temporary change, but your media strategy and messaging strategy should reflect the current environment.
  • Test and re-test. Now is the right time to try new things and measure the impact. Tough times provide new ways to connect with people.
  • Seek to build trust with current students and prospects through proactive communication and consider the long-term relationship at all costs.

Consider pulling out all the stops to give much needed relief to those who need it.

Email marketing and social media

Email and social continue to be key ways of getting in touch with your prospects so you’ll want to be sure you’re sending relevant, up to date information. If you haven’t already done so, you may want to review all of your automated emails and planned social posts and re-visit your immediate communications plan. Don’t go radio silent by any means, but do be thoughtful about what you send, and what your audience needs to hear from you right now.

Looking ahead to the next recruiting year, you may be able to find time to audit your email communications plan and brainstorm new ways of delivering social content. Have you always wanted to learn how to create simple animations for social or have you been interested in learning how to leverage a new tracking feature in your CRM? Now’s the time to learn so when you scale your communications up again, you can apply new skills and abilities.

Extending deadlines, waiving tests and being flexible

Now is the time for ultimate flexibility. As you are making exceptions to ease the burden on your prospects, think about what you’re willing to sacrifice now and long-term.

  • Deadlines – Extending deadlines to give your prospects assistance is a necessity in the current uncertain times. But also think about how you’ll structure your deadlines for the following year and the impact of these temporary changes.
  • Waiving tests – If your program requires an admissions test for entry, consider admitting students now and letting them take the test later. This will allow you to be flexible but not sacrifice your standard.

Although these changes can be stressful, the best thing you can do is look forward and calm the nerves of your prospects as best as you can by having clear, consistent and accurate messaging.

If you’re searching for other ways to manage the change within your marketing and recruiting organization, reach out to GPRS. We are here to help.


Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | March 17th, 2020

Lessons learned during a time of forced change

In the wake of the recent global pandemic COVID-19, or coronavirus, colleges and universities everywhere are being forced into change. It’s uncomfortable, unprecedented and seemingly without end as things are developing rapidly. Although no one can predict how the next few weeks or months will unfold and it’s uncertain how this will impact the higher ed industry specifically, here are a few lessons we’ve learned from working with graduate programs during this evolving time.

Keep calm, and carry on – it’s the new mantra

This is more than a phrase that you see on t-shirts and screensavers. It’s a mantra that many across the higher ed industry are adopting right now. With the advent of fully remote teams, classes going online and campuses closing across the globe, it can be easy to slip into the mindset of worry about closing out the semester, recruiting for the next class and losing valuable momentum with your marketing efforts. So how do you ensure you’re prepared for this rapidly changing environment? Take things one day at a time. Although your team may be held accountable for a lot, remember that everyone else is in the same boat.

You are more nimble than you previously thought

If there is anything that can force you into change, it’s an international pandemic that threatens the health of your team, your neighbors and your country. As the CDC is urging people to create social distance because of the coronavirus, many teams have gone fully remote and students have been ushered off campus in an attempt to “flatten the curve” of new cases.

Universities were some of the first organizations to go remote for many reasons. Although social responsibility tops the list, many schools were confident in their ability to go remote because of the technology they already have in place. Students can take advantage of online learning, tools and remote classrooms. And although staff is traditionally in the office to assist students and keep things running smoothly, it may be surprising how efficient people are at working from home, responding to issues and coming up with contingency plans. You may have realized that you’re more nimble than you thought when forced into change and it’s impressive. And for schools who didn’t have as many online resources in place, it’s a great time to learn from your peer schools to prepare for the future of online learning.

Online classes that you’ve pushed for are happening

For the marketers, admissions staff or program managers who have been pushing for online course offerings to position your school more competitively in the market, the day is finally here. Whether you’ve planned for this for two years, or you’re planning for it right now out of necessity, realize great change can often come out of great adversity. Professors and instructors across the globe are being jolted into action by placing their content online, finding ways to connect remotely using technology and thinking differently about course delivery. Although there may be glitches and everyone is figuring it out together, you’ll look back soon and realize that you made great strides that you can continue into the future.

Your students (and prospective students) want to know your plan

At the moment, your personal inbox is being flooded with emails from various companies, letting you know what their plans are for slowing the spread of the coronavirus and ways they’ll modify their business to keep you safe. These emails may be somewhat comforting to you. Your current students and prospects need to hear from you as well. They want to know how they will continue coursework, graduate on time and meet with their teams. Prospects want to know if you’re still planning on starting a new year, how this downtime will affect their application, if preview days will be rescheduled and how to take admissions tests when they’re being cancelled. The most important thing you can do right now during the coronavirus pandemic, even if you don’t have all the answers, is to instill confidence and set expectations.

  • Let students know you are working on a plan and will follow up with them soon.
  • Establish one or two key communicators and consolidate emails and messages.
  • Send updates as you have them with clear direction and action for them to take.
  • Pause existing automated email communication flows so you’re not sending inconsistent messaging.

If you are searching for other ways to manage the change within your marketing, recruiting or online program management, do not hesitate to reach out to GPRS. We are here to help.


Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | March 11th, 2020

Create a cohesive experience for your prospects – align your online and offline messages

Align your online and offline messagesIn education, you are not just selling a degree – you’re offering an experience, a network, a path to advancement and a sense of accomplishment. So, when connecting with prospective students, it’s key your online and offline messages are consistent.

If you’re like many schools, your marketing (both digital and traditional) is the first experience your prospective students have with you, giving them a reason to do more research. If they like what they see, they may engage with admissions, attend an event and visit campus.

Some may see it as a page right out of Branding 101, but making sure that all of these touch points align can make a huge difference in how you are perceived by your prospective students and can either encourage or discourage a future enrollment.

Make your online experience match up to other forms of advertising

By using your website as the primary means of communication, you are ensuring information about your school is always accessible (24/7 and in any location). But it can be tempting to neglect other forms of traditional advertising if you focus all of your efforts on optimizing your digital assets.

Any media you use (radio, newspaper), out-of-home advertising you develop, direct mail you send or brochures you distribute need to consistently align with your online image and messaging. If you find this is too much of an investment, consider dropping one or more items. The truth is that your students are paying attention, and if they are using your marketing as intended, all roads lead to your website. And if the ads they see look completely different than your site, it could raise a red flag. While considering such a large investment, students want to be confident in what they’re buying. The bottom line is: inconsistent branding can send mixed messages.

Here are some tips to align your traditional and digital advertising for a cohesive message to your students:

  • Use your brand standards manual (or develop one if you don’t have one)
  • Update your website and materials at the same time for version control
  • Route all creative through an agency or internal design staff for consistency – don’t allow outside media companies to develop creative for you
  • Develop a strategy document with key messaging points to use for all marketing

Make your marketing match up to the in-person experience

If you marketing is doing its job, it is generating leads who are genuinely interested in what your school has to offer. But prospective students are not only looking for a degree, they’re looking for an experience. They may be wondering:

  • What will my peers look like?
  • How will I spend my weekends, nights or time online?
  • Who are my professors?
  • What kind of network will I have?
  • How will I be treated?
  • Will I fit in?

The best way to help your prospects overcome these obstacles and answer their questions is to address them in-person, and in a way that is consistent with the image you’ve portrayed online and in your marketing. Simply put: make sure what they see when they attend an info session, preview day or campus visit matches up to what you’re advertising. This also goes for phone calls with admissions staff.

Tips to maintain a cohesive brand both online and in-person:

  • If you promise a personal scale program, do your best to greet prospects by name.
  • If you market a robust network, use an impressive alumni panel at your events.
  • Use pictures of real students and alumni, actual classrooms and campus photography.
  • If you tout world-class faculty, arrange a meet and greet with your professors.

Making sure that your prospects see you consistently online, in-person and in advertising can create a solid image of your school during a time when they are making big decisions.

As you are looking for ways to streamline your messaging? GPRS can give you the insights you need to align your communication, digital advertising and in-person events through branding.



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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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