As the world evolves and marketing strategies advance, it only makes sense that the sphere of higher education would flex and change as well. College no longer functions with a one-size-fits-all mentality, so recruitment must target both traditional and non-traditional students, taking into account those who range in age, location, and a variety of needs. Many schools are now considering getting faculty involved in their marketing efforts—but will it really make a difference?
Student loan debt is at an all-time high, with students in the United States racking up dues at a staggering $1.3 trillion. Social media abounds and technology is progressing at a rapid pace, so adapting quickly and vetting advertising strategies to differentiate your college from the rest is necessary. The competition is fierce, and the push to remain relevant and connected to today’s modern student is more important than ever before.
Responsive web design, increased SEO efforts, and strategic social media were hot trends over the last few years, and while they’re still important, recruitment demands require additional efforts. An article on trends in higher education marketing, recruitment, and technology from Hanover Research explains: “…marketing and branding trends have shown a progressive reliance on more creative outreach efforts, as well as design and advertising campaigns. Some are more artistically‐oriented than others, but most attempts appeal more personally to students that may be interested in higher education.”
The thing is, what’s really selling nowadays are stories and relationships. It’s that emotional connection—interwoven into higher education marketing—that draws potential students in. While the primary role of college faculty is to educate students, colleges and universities are finding professors and other college faculty can now play a tremendous role in the success of an institution’s recruitment outcome.
So, how can you best utilize and position faculty as a unique and effective recruitment tool for higher ed?
Showcase Why Faculty Involvement is Meaningful
As you begin your endeavor to get faculty involved in recruitment efforts, consider going about it prudently. While most college marketing departments mean well, suddenly springing extra marketing work on professors and other faculty members can be confusing. After all, professors are generally hired to educate students—not market their institution.
Simply explaining how important faculty is to the recruitment cycle can make a big difference in the likelihood of getting faculty involved. Human connection is powerful, and a faculty member who actually cares about students and their futures can make all the difference. It’s far more helpful to explain why faculty members are needed in the recruitment process first instead of piling more work on top of their regular duties.
Consider explaining why connecting on a relational level with students is important. Professors who invite their class over for the occasional dinner or purposefully mentor students in their chosen area of study are probably going to see their scholars flourish and continue attending the school. Students want to know their professors have a vested interest in them and their education. This kind of intentionality can lead to excellent word-of-mouth feedback and increase retention as well.
As you employ different strategies—such as encouraging them to tout the school to their connections or encouraging your marketing department to post videos of professors working with students on social media—track the recruitment data, and give real-life examples of how current faculty members are making a difference and impacting the marketing effort. Highlight how their teaching role on campus can influence both retention and recruitment.
Give Faculty the Power of Choice
Professors and other faculty members are generally experts in their chosen fields and are often busy fulfilling their role on campus. Providing a variety of opportunities for how they can get involved with recruitment will guarantee a higher likelihood of collaboration. It’s important to treat professors, teachers, and other faculty members with respect, so providing helpful guidance instead of commanding specific direction will bode well for marketing departments.
Encouraging faculty to tell their story and communicate their strengths is always meaningful. Interview a professor for a magazine article, or record a video of chemistry students working with their professor on groundbreaking research. Encourage faculty members to attend admissions events or ask willing professors if they’ll speak at recruitment functions or make phone calls to prospective students.
The University of Minnesota’s Driven to Discover campaign does a great job of utilizing faculty passion to showcase excellence and the university’s search for knowledge, innovation, and self-discovery. Driven to Discover highlights the U of M brand and tells brilliant stories of faculty whose research is changing the world. Once recorded, these stories are shared via print, digital, and social media in order to get the word out there about the university’s stellar faculty lineup and the difference they’re making around the globe.
Inviting faculty to showcase what they do best and play to their strengths is generally a successful tactic. They’re masters in their field and can be a powerful recruitment tool.
Encourage Faculty to Utilize Connections
Faculty members often have a wide web of connections. Teaching at other colleges, connecting with a variety of students over the years, and working with other professionals allows them to make meaningful connections that could lead to recruitment opportunities.
Not only that, but most prospective students are active on at least one social media channel. Providing ways for faculty to use their influence online and over email can make a big impact. Encourage professors to interact with students online and champion the institution via their social media account.
It’s important to equip faculty with the recruitment materials they need and help them understand your school’s branding so they can move forward without a problem. Then, when they utilize connections, whether online or offline, they’ll be able to communicate the college or university’s mission and vision effectively.
The Future of Higher Ed Recruitment
The expertise of faculty members and the relationships they build matter. The influence they can have on students—both prospective and current—can truly impact recruitment. By showcasing why faculty involvement is meaningful, letting them choose how to get involved, and encouraging them to utilize their connections, they can play a big role in increasing the effects of a university’s marketing work.
But don’t just stop here—get creative. Brainstorm different ways you can integrate faculty into your marketing efforts, and don’t get discouraged if it takes a little bit for your attempts to gain traction. Once the ball gets rolling, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the impact it can have on your school.