Guest article by Andrew Hastings, Marketing Manager at Kira Talent
With 3.3 million high school students graduating this spring and setting their sights on higher education, colleges across the country must vie for their attention. But as potential applicants are bombarded by social advertising every time they pick up their smartphones, how can universities cut through the noise?
Marketing to the Gen Z high school audience is much different than previous generations and requires a fresh, innovative approach—instead of relying on tried and true tactics. Here are six tips admissions teams can use to shake up their marketing campaigns in order to make an impression and connect with this unique group of prospective students.
Showcase your school’s unique brand story
A crucial first step for any recruitment campaign is identifying the ‘story of your school.’ This story must carry through your website, admissions brochures and even in what recruiters say during conferences and high school visits. Applicants need to feel as though they identify with your school, so make sure there is a common, identifiable thread showcasing what sets your school apart from the rest.
Recruitment continues beyond the application
The best recruitment campaigns are ones that are cohesive across all platforms, both online and offline, and always remain focused on their audience even after they’ve submitted their application. Now that they know your school’s story, continue the recruitment process by offering freshman-life and program-specific information. Take every opportunity to go above and beyond, proactively addressing applicants’ needs as they navigate through the admissions process and await their application decision.
Stop ‘selling’—Gen Z doesn’t buy it
Gen Z is used to being inundated by ads from companies seeking their valuable brand loyalty. For this reason, teens have a low tolerance for mediocrity and a high standard for marketing. The brands they trust are ones that respond to their needs, offer content that is tailored to them, provide immediate support services, and curate advertising that doesn’t ‘feel like’ a typical ad. When selecting a college, the Gen Z audience wants to be challenged rather than marketed to. Give applicants information they can use to self-identify if your school culture is right for them, instead of trying to persuade or convince them that it is.
Make an investment in social media and commit to it
A social media presence is only impactful if your brand learns to speak your potential applicants’ language, adapts and responds quickly, and has fun. Make the investment in sending your admissions team to professional development events and conferences, empowering them to be innovative and take risks. Don’t be scared to embrace new media, like Snapchat or Periscope, but be sure to assess whether each new opportunity serves your brand and audience before adopting it. Most importantly, make sure your school’s story and core values are reflected across every platform your school is on.
Hit “Send” on personalized and compelling emails
Despite what social media gurus and trend articles tell you, email is not extinct. Sure, email is not the average teen’s go-to platform to catch up with family and friends, but this demographic still recognizes it as a place for important education and career-related transactions. If you take the time to really understand this audience and what is important to them, email is a great place to build their trust and brand loyalty.
Cater to their desire for lasting experiences
Gen Z puts immense value in garnering experiences. They aren’t just choosing a college—they’re choosing an undergraduate experience. For this reason, it’s vital that potential applicants get a taste of your school’s energy, whether that’s during campus tours or presentations on the road. Keep in mind that these younger students are naturally less career focused than those at the graduate level, so feed into their desire for the quintessential “college experience.”
Today’s high school graduate is looking for something much different than previous generations. Instead of focusing on criteria like class size, they want schools to paint a picture of what their undergraduate experience would look like to determine if the school is a fit for them as a unique individual. In order to reach these potential applicants, admissions teams must dedicate the time to learn their language and use it to tell—not sell—the story of their school.
About the Author
Andrew is the Marketing Manager at Kira. He works on the marketing strategy, brand management, and lead generation tactics for Kira Academic.
About Kira Talent
Starting with admissions, the Kira team is dedicated to arming schools with the tools they need to select students who will excel both in the classroom and beyond graduation. The Kira platform helps admissions teams assess applicants with timed video and written responses to evaluate skills like communication, leadership and creativity, which can’t be assessed through traditional applications and test scores. With its new education portal, Kira University, the company leverages years of research and data to help schools build their strongest cohorts yet.
For more information, please visit www.kiratalent.com.