“… the longstanding notion that colleges can carefully shape and control their public image is antiquated.” – President Brian Rosenberg, Macalaster College
Like it or not, with the influx of new media and viral marketing, higher education can no longer control its message or perception. In essence, hardly anyone can control public perception anymore. What organizations can do, however, is try to influence that message and communicate/market in the most strategic/effective way.
After working in higher education myself for over ten years, I think it’s safe to say the means of communication and marketing has changed … an obvious understatement. From marketing the institution to prospective students, to communicating with current students/faculty/staff to engaging with younger and older alumni alike, higher education institutions have had a difficult time embracing new media to attract and sustain communication with their constituents.
Higher education marketing and communication strategies must adapt to stay afloat and compete in today’s economy. How many print brochures do you think the average junior/senior in high school receives from prospective colleges and universities? If you stripped away the college logo and tagline, could you decipher major differences between the marketing materials and what they are trying to “sell?” How many juniors/seniors in high school read the newspaper … in print? Remember your audiences and respect how they are communicating in today’s world.
Luanne Lawrence, Vice President of University Advancement at Oregon State University said in response to their new media campaign, “Powered by Orange,”
“It’s scary to relinquish control of your message. But when you build a loyal community, it does your work for you.”
Right now, my two favorite social media campaigns for higher ed are yielding amazing results. Oregon State University’s social media campaign caters more towards prospective students and influencing the reputation of the university by including all constituents. The campaign launched last spring. School enrollment has soared, first-time donations by alumni were up and visits to the OSU website grew exponentially.
Macalaster College happened into a social media frenzy. A seemingly innocent self-parodying video on YouTube, “President’s Day at Macalester College” initially designed to attract and engage alumni, ended up reaching over 55,000 viewers. Annual fund donations spiked. The self-proclaimed non-technology savvy college president had a change of heart. President Brian Rosenberg of Macalester College had never blogged, tweeted, and he wasn’t on Facebook. He learned first-hand how new forms of social media “have more potential to connect audiences across both generational and geographic boundaries than do virtually all previous forms of communication.”
This isn’t a sales pitch. It’s reality. Pay attention to your audiences. Embrace new media … and accept the fact that the old adage of “controlling your message” is obsolete.
- Heather (@hmillar13)