3 must-have tactics for your higher education communications plan

Graduates throwing up caps at commencement

Whether your goal is to increase enrollment, showcase life-changing research or establish your school as the best option to earn a certificate or degree, having a well-rounded communications plan is a must as a higher education institution.

We’re big believers in the EOP model (earned, owned, paid), so here are three must-do tactics to add to your strategic communications plan and why they work well for higher education.

Earned Media: Media Relations

Incorporating media relations into your communications strategy gives you the opportunity to raise awareness of program offerings, share exciting student news and success stories, celebrate athletic wins and promote upcoming events. Colleges are a fundamental part of their local community, so keeping your local TV, Radio and Print reporters updated is always a good idea.

Another opportunity to take advantage of in the world of media relations is showcasing the knowledge and expertise on your campus. Newsjacking, or connecting experts to reporters covering trending news, can take time and research, but can be a great way for your expert to stand out on a trending topic, potentially on the national level.

If newsjacking sounds like a goal to work up to, pitching an opinion piece can be another tool in your arsenal. Providing expert insight on newsworthy topics such as the importance of funding for financial assistance, connecting students with community resources or the need for a diverse campus faculty, is a way to voice your expertise on campus.

Owned Media: Social Media

Utilizing social media allows you to boost student engagement, promote your institution’s values and achievements, connect with alumni and attract new students. With all the various tools available on social media platforms, there are endless ways to get creative with content and promote what makes your programs and student body unique.

Each platform has its advantages for connecting and building relationships with students and alumni. Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to create groups to build relationships and share exciting news while Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat can be used for posting photos and videos of campus activities and student stories.

A useful method to carrying the content load if it seems too heavy is taking advantage of user-generated content. Create hashtags for students to share photos and reshare on your accounts. It’s authentic, engaging and saves your team time.

While you’ll have to put funds into paid advertising, this tactic can help you better reach your target audience and attain your goals. But thanks to the vast world of digital advertising, there are so many ways to target and reach your prospective audience at the right place, with the right message, at the right time.

Working with a media planner, you can look at your academic calendar and plan flights of media spends that align with enrollment periods to ensure your institution is top of mind when students go to apply, register or enroll in academic offerings. You can also take advantage of self-serve platforms with Google and your favorite social media platform if you prefer to roll up your sleeves and manage directly.

Need to speak directly to prospective students? Maybe a YouTube pre-roll campaign is right for you. Want to convince parents of potential students to tour your campus? Maybe a more traditional media campaign during news hours is the best way to serve your message. The options are almost limitless.

You may have started taking advantage of some of these tactics years ago or may be just getting started. Wherever you are, it’s never too late to put time and resources into earned, owned and paid communications tactics. After all, as a higher-ed expert, you know that it’s never too late to learn.

Michaela Mishoe

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