Cara Skikne

How universities can stand out from the digital noise


Breaking through the digital noise 

Universities are competing with institutions around the world for the attention of students. The aim, however, is not to be all things to all people. It is to get on and stay on the radars of the right, best-fit students.

Audience research is crucial to understand what students are looking for and what messages will resonate. It is equally important to understand what really differentiates your institution from competitors, and to be authentic in your communications with students about what they can expect from their experience. Objectives “Why would students choose your institution versus any old institution offering similar subject areas? You have to have an understanding of your identity as an institution and how that’s going to resonate with the audience.”

Case study: The New School, New York

The New School is a one-of-a-kind university in New York City. It houses seven different colleges, including the world-renowned Parsons School of Design, the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, and the College of Performing Arts. It attracts students from around the world interested in education at the junction of creativity, design and social research.

Studyportals spoke to Laura Montgomery, Senior Director of College and Enrolment Marketing at The New School to get her insights into breaking through the digital noise:

“It starts with a fundamental understanding of your institution – what your audiences perceive of you and what you want to be known for. It’s extremely important to show what makes our approach to each discipline unique. We infuse sustainability and social justice into our education. So, at our design school, it’s not just learning about making pretty things. It’s thinking about how objects we create affect the world.”

Move your messaging forward

In paid media spaces, there are a lot of retargeting options. I think it’s a mistake to keep hammering out the same brand messaging. I prefer to use more action-oriented promotions at that point, like connect with an admissions officer, visit our campus online, or take a virtual tour. At this point we assume that you have a basic understanding of who we are. Now take the next step and connect”

Make your website memorable

“The website is the number one port of call for every student at some point. The visual and content experience you get, once you land on the website, is essential. Make sure that the first impression is a memorable one and a powerful one.”

Keep social media authentic

“People come to the website to understand the official face of the university. On social media channels, they’re digging to get more of the real deal. What is the university like? What kind of things are actually happening on campus? What kind of projects are students working on? So social media content must be an authentic representation of life on campus – the good and the bad

The New School’s ‘Learn Something New’ unifying brand concept

“We’re running different paid media campaigns with different creatives. They’re united visually and by the message ‘Learn Something New’, but one talks about the power of design to change the world. With liberal arts it’s about learning the tools for change. With performing arts it’s about being an artist in the world. We want musicians or actors to be engaged with the world at large and make a difference. We’re tapping into that message.”

Accelerating international student recruitment

This was originally published in Studyportals’ ‘6 ways to accelerate international student recruitment guide – a collection of approaches supported by mini-case studies from universities across the world.

Find out how universities have amplified their impact by:

Choosing focus countries

Optimising programme portfolios

Extending access online

Building a strong ambassador programme

Breaking through the digital noise

Using data strategically

Download the guide here

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