Unleashing Creativity: Innovative School Marketing Ideas
The higher ed space is competitive. Countless schools are vying for attention at any given time, whether they want to recruit new students, raise money for their institutions, or inform and engage current students, parents, and professors.
Not to mention, the digital landscape has transformed the way you connect with your audience, too. With the marketing landscape constantly evolving, you need innovative marketing ideas to stand out and make an impression.
If your outreach plan needs a touch-up, we’re here to help! We’ll share some innovative marketing strategies that will freshen up your plan as the new school year approaches, including:
- Google Ads
- A Student Ambassador Program
- Social Media
- Student-Generated Content
- Collaborative Partnerships
While the spring semester has wrapped up for many schools, the fall semester is just around the corner. Make sure your marketing plan is ready to go, so you can form meaningful connections with your audience.
Chances are, you’ve spent plenty of time perfecting your school’s website, and that’s a smart marketing move! After all, a school website is home to your tuition information, enrollment forms, upcoming events, contact information, and so much more. Every member of your audience will visit it at some point.
If you put thought behind your website’s content, Google Ads might be the perfect addition to your marketing strategy. Here’s why we recommend that schools leverage Google Ads to strengthen their outreach:
- Increased online presence: Place your school’s advertisements at the top of relevant search engine results pages. You can bid on keywords that prospects and current students are searching. This will help highlight important educational opportunities, community engagement initiatives, fundraisers, enrollment forms, and more.
- Targeted advertising: Using Google Ads, you can target keywords, locations, demographics, and other user-specific information to reach your intended audience. Tailoring your ads to the right people will ensure your marketing efforts are focused.
- Budget control: With Google Ads, you completely control your spending. Set daily or monthly limits, adjust bids, and track the cost per click (CPC) to manage your advertising budget efficiently.
Unlike other nonprofits, educational institutions don’t meet the Google Ad Grant requirements, but advertising can still be an affordable avenue. You just need to put some thought into your budget allocation.
By leveraging Google Ads, your school can promote whatever it needs to establish a positive learning culture. Amplify your educational offerings, increase enrollment, and engage with students and parents. Just be sure to conduct thorough keyword research and regularly monitor your campaigns to maximize the impact of your school’s marketing efforts.
A Student Ambassador Program
Some of your greatest recruiters are already enrolled in your school. Create a student ambassador program where enthusiastic and accomplished students represent your school. These individuals will be responsible for actively engaging with prospective students.
As you get your program up and running, assign your ambassadors responsibilities like the following:
- Participate in outreach events
- Lead campus tours
- Share their personal stories
This is a wonderful way to establish a positive image for your school. Current students can offer fresh, authentic perspectives and put a friendly face to your institution. Nothing will showcase campus life better than having current students share their experiences.
Social media enables you to start a two-way conversation with students, their families, alumni, and the rest of your community. From Facebook to Instagram, your school’s content will automatically appear on followers’ feeds, so you can stay connected even when school’s not in session.
However, you’ll need to do more than just sporadically post and hope your followers will interact. Your followers’ feeds are busy, so you’ll need a careful social media strategy to stand out among the masses of posts they come across. Here’s how higher ed institutions like yours can use social media for better marketing:
- Feature interactive content. The introduction of Stories and other interactive tools makes it easy to post content users can interact with. Post fun quizzes, polls, and virtual tours to reel in your audience.
- Showcase student life. Show off your campus’ vibrant student life by sharing photos, videos, and stories.
- Engage with followers. Create an online community by responding to comments, replying to messages, and liking users’ posts about your institution when relevant. This is a fantastic way to foster engagement and strengthen relationships.
- Paid advertising. Promote students’ success stories, scholarship opportunities, campus initiatives, and more. Getting Attention’s nonprofit advertising guide explains that you should craft content based on what’s trending and use real stories from those involved with your school. Like Google Ads, you can target your ads to specific audiences across channels like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Give your followers a reason to stop scrolling and engage with your content. It doesn’t matter if you’re highlighting standout faculty, scholarship opportunities, or an upcoming school auction. Social media is an unavoidable part of any school’s marketing strategy.
Offer relatable and authentic perspectives by publishing student-generated content on both digital and print publications that your school sends. Encourage standout students to create content like videos, blogs, and social media posts that highlight their experiences at your school.
We recommend this for a handful of reasons:
- Build credibility and trust. Students can share their unique experiences, accomplishments, and perspectives. Doing so allows prospective students to envision themselves on campus, fostering a genuine connection to your school.
- Amplify your school’s reach. Students’ content can reach a wider audience beyond your school’s official channels. When students post about your school on social media, this directly exposes new prospects to your institution who might not otherwise encounter your school’s marketing efforts.
- Spark a sense of belonging. Reinforce current students’ connections to your school. Student-generated content can initiate conversations among your existing school community, fostering a sense of pride.
Thoughtful student-generated content can be a powerful way to showcase your school’s culture, attract potential students, and keep alumni informed on evolving campus life. Great for everything from your school’s website to your alumni magazine, student-written content might be just what your marketing strategy needs!
Seek partnerships with local businesses, community organizations, and nonprofits to amplify your reach. These partnerships can benefit your community and promote your school’s commitment to community involvement.
Co-hosting events or creating joint promotional campaigns yield mutually-beneficial outcomes, such as increased brand exposure for both parties. In other words, they’re usually an easy sell to organizations and socially-responsible companies. Not to mention, paid partnerships (AKA sponsorships) are also fantastic ways for schools to raise money.
Depending on the partnership, it might even open the door to unique opportunities for students. These partnerships might lead to internships, job placement programs, or collaborative research initiatives. This can enhance your school’s academic reputation and attract prospective students seeking specialized opportunities.
When it comes to maintaining these relationships, Double the Donation’s corporate sponsorships guide shares some effective ways to work with your partners. Most of the ideas shared translate well to nonprofits and community organizations, too. For example, you’ll want to treat your partners like part of your team and thank them publicly. In any case, put effort into maintaining these relationships to make them a viable communications medium.
Heading into the next school year, give your higher ed institution’s marketing plan another look. Being fresh and innovative with your outreach strategies can work wonders for enrollment and student engagement.
No matter which ideas you implement, aligning your marketing efforts with your school’s brand and values is essential. Be creative and stay true to your school’s identity. In turn, you’ll differentiate your school from others in the competitive educational landscape.
About the Author
Jessica King is the business lead at Getting Attention, where she helps nonprofits acquire and manage the Google Ad Grant to expand their impact. Prior to her work at Getting Attention, Jessica worked at nonprofits and higher education organizations where she focused on communication and digital marketing. Most recently, she worked in search engine optimization in the mission-driven sector.
Jessica holds a master’s degree in communication from Virginia Tech. In her free time, you can find her reading, building furniture, and hanging out with her cats, Benny and Olive.