Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic as a brand is uncharted territory—but for those institutions whose primary "product," so to speak, is traditionally built on gatherings of varying sizes, it can be a uniquely challenging scenario. Higher education is one such field that fits that description, and the key pillars of adapting your marketing efforts include optimization, communication and prediction.
Here are a few ways we've been recommending our college and university clients move forward.
Bear in mind this affects many of your existing marketing executions, at least in some small way. Make sure your website's calls to action reflect a shift to virtual tours, changes in deadlines, enrollment and admissions process shifts, etc. Slight text changes can make a difference in mitigating confusion. The standard recruitment message might be different—take stock of how your competitors in your market are reacting via their digital ads and content, and determine how you can keep up and differentiate. Optimize your typical targeting to reflect that you understand the context of current events while ensuring your focus is where it always has been—on providing a positive experience for students and solving student problems.
Being a consistent presence for both your prospective and admitted student audiences is step No. 1 when it comes to communication. This includes well-rounded channel selection, segmented and targeted messaging that account for the stage in which a given student is in the process and devoting some paid media spend to make sure the message is delivered. Keep in mind that these soon-to-be and potential students are in a state of questioning—"What will this mean when it's 'over,' how will this affect my long-term educational goals and do my colleges of choice meet these needs?" Be preemptive about providing this answer upfront—make it clear how your university is providing as seamless a transition as possible without sacrificing quality of education, and meet them where they're at with both organic and paid-media pushes.
Where will this pandemic and how we've responded take the world of higher education into the future? Making educated predictions can help you anticipate how your college or university brand will need to adjust in the coming months. Prep for the likeliest scenarios—that's plural. Consider anticipating worry among graduating students about the job market—offer the option of continuing their education with online graduate programs. Or high school grads concerned about how this will affect their long-term academic and career goals—offer the option of online courses over the summer to stay on track for their hopeful end goals. Whether or not on-campus classes will be an option in the near-term is unclear—but your marketing should be prepared to react to more than just the most optimistic or pessimistic outcome.
For more on Epicosity's tips for marketing amid COVID-19, check out our blog on recommendations for higher ed brands.