As the academic year kicks off, higher education institutions are once again gearing up to engage with students, faculty, and the broader community. In the ever-evolving landscape of communications and marketing, staying ahead of the curve is crucial. This year, we're witnessing five prominent trends that are set to shape the higher education PR and marketing landscape for the 2023-2024 cycle.
1. Authenticity Matters: Focus on Telling Human Stories
In an age of information overload, authenticity is the currency that can set higher education institutions apart. It's not just about listing accolades or showcasing facilities anymore; it's about telling compelling human stories. These stories should revolve around the lives and experiences of students, faculty, and staff.
Authentic storytelling can humanize institutions, helping prospective students and their families connect on a personal level. Highlighting student achievements, faculty research, and the day-to-day experiences on campus can go a long way in building trust and attracting a diverse range of students. Remember, authenticity is about being real, not perfect.
2. Showcase Professor Expertise: "Expert Sourcing" to Media
The media landscape is hungry for credible voices, and universities have a wealth of expertise to offer. This year, universities should focus on "expert sourcing" to the media. This means actively promoting faculty members as experts in their fields.
Higher education institutions can establish relationships with journalists and news outlets, making it easier for them to connect with professors when they need expert commentary. By positioning faculty members as thought leaders, universities can enhance their reputation and extend their influence beyond the campus.
3. Go Where Students Are: Embrace TikTok and Utilize Video
To effectively engage with students, institutions need to meet them where they spend their time, and that place is often social media. In particular, TikTok has emerged as a powerful platform for reaching Gen Z. It's a dynamic space that allows for creative storytelling and viral trends.
Embracing TikTok and other social media channels enables universities to connect with students on a more personal level. Whether it's sharing campus life, highlighting student achievements, or addressing important issues, social media can be a key channel for fostering a sense of community and belonging.
One vital element to include in your social media strategy is video content. Video has proven to be highly engaging and shareable on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Universities can use video to provide virtual campus tours, showcase student testimonials, and feature faculty members discussing their research. Video content allows for a more immersive and authentic experience, making it an essential tool in reaching and resonating with today's digital-native generation. Embracing both video and social media can amplify your institution's presence and message among prospective students and the wider community.
4. Hybrid Events Are Here to Stay
The COVID-19 pandemic forced higher education institutions to adapt to virtual learning and events, but the hybrid approach is likely to persist even as campuses fully reopen. Combining in-person and virtual elements allows institutions to reach broader audiences and accommodate diverse preferences.
Whether it's open houses, conferences, or alumni gatherings, offering hybrid options ensures that everyone can participate. To succeed in this environment, universities should invest in robust virtual event platforms and prioritize the seamless integration of online and in-person experiences.
5. Podcasts: A Great Funnel for Higher Education
Podcasts have become an increasingly popular medium for storytelling and knowledge dissemination. Universities can leverage this trend to reach wider audiences and engage with prospective students and alumni. Podcasts provide an opportunity to showcase faculty expertise, share campus stories, and explore academic topics in an accessible format.
The power of podcasts lies in their ability to foster in-depth conversations and convey complex ideas in a digestible manner. Higher education institutions should consider creating their own podcasts, featuring interviews with faculty members discussing their research, insights into campus life, and discussions on relevant academic subjects. By doing so, universities can not only enhance their online presence but also establish themselves as thought leaders in various fields. This format offers a unique and personal way to connect with both current and prospective students, fostering a sense of community and intellectual curiosity that extends far beyond the confines of the campus.
As we embark on the 2023-2024 academic year, higher education institutions must adapt to the evolving landscape of communications and marketing. By embracing these trends and staying ahead of the curve, universities can effectively connect with their audiences and thrive in this dynamic environment.