Three A’s for Higher Ed Marketing

Higher education marketers have a lot of demands placed on them. Branding, enrollment support, content, advertising, social media, and much more.

This, unfortunately, means that mean times marketing teams must make tough choices about who and what they support. Simply put, there aren’t enough resources to support the needs of everyone.

From my experience, when marketing teams are in this position, thinking about strategic university partners is a good place to start. I have identified three that I think are crucial in creating strong partners.

Building Partnerships

If you’re just starting with partners and priorities — I think these are smart places to begin.

Admissions – This partner plays a key role in bringing students to the university and is a large audience who can support the brand. Building a partnership and working with this team will help the institution and ensure marketing’s work aligns with how Admissions is thinking about recruitment. After all, it doesn’t do much good to focus on recruiting x student in marketing spend if the admissions and enrollment function is focused on y student. There needs to be strong collaboration. Both groups win when the partnership is strong. Not to mention, marketing likely has tons of brand messages, photos and stories. And Admissions needs this kind of content for Viewbooks, drip campaigns, and social content.

Advancement – Alumni and future donors are opportunities that marketing teams sometimes overlook. Alumni tend to be verbal advocates of the university, and they may have children who are considering attending. Collaboration with advancement can be a way to ensure alumni and prospective donors know the great things happening at the university, which can help the university in multiple ways. If marketing collaborates with advancement on sharing the good news to alumni and donors, both philanthropic support and advocacy should increase.

Athletics – Often times, athletics is a key way that people learn about the university. Time and time again, we’ve seen that when athletics teams do well, there is a rise in applications the following year. Why? Athletics helps build awareness of the university to new audiences. While marketing teams aren’t likely to focus on the wins and losses, they should be engaged in telling stories about the university athletics teams. This could include featuring stellar student-athletes, highlighting how athletes engage with the community, and how the athletics teams personify the university brand. By amplifying these messages, the university wins.

What About Academics?

Academics – The academic aspect is at the core of what we do as institutions. However, my dissertation research has noted that time and time again, universities try to be all things to all people. That doesn’t work anymore. Instead, marketing needs to be in strategic collaboration with academic leadership to understand what programs should be the focus. Without this, the marketing team could spend a significant amount of effort, with little results to show for it. Marketing teams need strategic insight from academic partners to do their best work.

Your Thoughts

While many partnerships exist at the university, these are the critical partnerships I have identified. I am curious if these are the ones you focus on in your marketing work. If not, what I am I missing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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