Five Ways to Engage Students in Higher Education Marketing

My internship at SimpsonScarborough has given me unique insights into how schools view themselves and their futures through crafting accurate and decisive messaging. Through my work delivering both qualitative and quantitative findings from surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews, I’ve learned that in order to properly market your school, it’s vital to have a real and specific understanding of your students beyond some broad generalizations or statistics on your student body. This can often be hard for administrators, but the good news is that we are eager to share our thoughts and experiences and support your marketing efforts. As a student myself, I hope to provide you with five easy ways to better engage and understand the students at your college or university:

  1. Talk to them: Since conversation is obviously the easiest and often most effective way to interact with students and understand how they see the school, I won’t dwell on this point.
  2. Buy them coffee or dinner: The perception that college students love free food is 100% accurate. You’re bound to have an honest conversation with them no matter if it’s an ad hoc chat with an undergrad at the student-run coffee shop or a more structured meeting at the local iconic cafe. Interacting with students in these types of casual social situations promotes honest conversation and develops a more nuanced understanding of student perceptions of the institution’s marketing strategies and general direction.
  3. Highlight student groups: Beyond the classroom, clubs and extracurricular activities are often central to students’ college experiences. As a student at Georgetown, and a member of the Georgetown University Grilling Society, I was giddy when they decided to celebrate our club’s ten-year anniversary on social media accounts. By showcasing specific and unique examples of student groups on campus, you will not only pique the interest of prospective students wanting to be a part of that those communities, but you will also engage current students who will happily open up and share about their beloved organizations.
  1. Offer internships at your marketing department: Bringing students onboard with the marketing team through work-study jobs makes students invested with the branding strategies you’re trying to implement. And they may even offer insights you might not have considered otherwise.
  2. Have them do the work for you: Give them a camera and have them tell their stories. A fantastic example of this is also from my alma mater university. Georgetown Stories features 12 competitively selected students from all walks of life who document their lives as students on social media. They do a great job showing the reality and diversity of the Georgetown Experience and what it means to be a Georgetown Hoya. The hashtag #GeorgetownStories accompanies quality Instagram and Twitter posts too, and these posts help to highlight the best Georgetown has to offer.

Charlie Lowe is a Project Strategy Intern at SimpsonScarborough. He is a senior at Georgetown University majoring in International Politics and enjoys biking, fly fishing, and higher education marketing in his spare time.

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