Colleges and universities have living and breathing legacies that have developed throughout the course of their existence. The historic library, the amazing grilled cheese sandwich only available on Tuesdays, the must-have, inspiring professor who’s been teaching for 50 years — we all carry the stories from class to class, generation to generation. At the same time, new stories are created every day. On campus, online, and everywhere in between. That’s what makes each college and university a different and unique experiential brand.
In higher education, your brand is in the hands of your people. It’s the experiences of your students, families, faculty, staff, alumni, tour guides and leaders over the course of years, and in some cases, decades. Consider the very different experiences lived by your audiences:
- Each prospective student is influenced by the brand learned by tour guides, admissions officers, and what’s found in social media.
- The current students’ experience is shaped by everyone surrounding them — residence hall leaders, faculty, peers and student groups.
- The faculty and staff experience is based on their relationships with their leaders and students.
- Alumni carry their experiences with your brand forward, and ideally, is an influencer for the next generation of students.
These lived and shared experiences matter. 95% of those surveyed indicated a campus tour (likely led by a student ambassador) is an important factor in a prospective student’s decision to enroll, whereas only 58% felt their online tour accurately represented the on-campus visit. The campus tour is one of the first opportunities for communication to help guide the brand understanding and experience.
What’s the role of strategic communication in supporting your college or university’s brand and strategic plan?
Strategic communication can help guide the development and implementation of your college or university’s purpose, mission and values as part of its strategic plan. These foundational business elements that, when thoughtfully developed and effectively implemented, act as a roadmap, helping colleges and universities stay on track and work toward achieving their strategic goals. This roadmap also helps organizations more effectively navigate change, recruit and retain faculty and staff, and build deeper trust and loyalty among all audiences.
A clear roadmap also helps identify and empower true brand ambassadors through personal alignment with your values. Throughout the interview and school choice process, your audiences are evaluating this alignment by asking themselves,
“Does this college or university believe what I believe in?”
“Do we stand up for similar causes or people?”
“Would I be proud to represent this college or university?”
When any organization is clear about its purpose or mission and values — and you take the right steps to truly live and communicate those values — your brand can attract the right people across the board.
- Your faculty and staff will create a strong organizational culture and positive student experience
- Prospective students and families who can see themselves at your college or university
- Students and alumni will share similar positive, connected, and aligned experiences and act as life-long brand ambassadors.
A strong purpose or mission and values can unify and create consistency of a college or university’s brand — despite the countless ways it’s experienced across your channels and audiences. Higher education institutions have an opportunity to improve enrollment and retention by identifying, attracting, and empowering the right people, at the right times.
Seeking support in activating a strategic communication plan to support your purpose or mission and values? Contact Karen Schultz to find out what’s possible.