Admissions professionals tell us time and time again that if they can get a prospect onto campus for a tour, it’s a done deal. But considering the investment and effort involved, a campus visit is quite a ways down the funnel. The challenge is to nurture prospects and guide them toward the decision to visit. Incorporating fresh video content into your enrollment marketing strategy can get you there.
This year, marketing automation giant HubSpot found that when presented with text and video, 72% of people preferred to learn about a product or service from video. Your prospects, especially those who hail from Generation Z, expect to engage with video. If you’re showing them old video, or worse, no video at all, you’re not going to stand up to your competitors.
Set aside part of your admissions budget for video, and approach that tactic strategically.
Stay true to your educational institution’s brand
Before you can tell a story using video, you must know the story. What’s your brand? How is it different from your competitors? Do your individual graduate programs and schools have unique brands? Even if you’re shooting a series of talking heads, you need to have a strong understanding of your brand to make sure the final cut communicates who you really are.
If you’ve never done it, or if your brand is in need of a refresh, gather key stakeholders and your marketing department for a brand workshop. Here at Big Sea, we take a full day to work through brand storycrafting for our clients. Even if you spend a few hours, you’re better off being in alignment than winging it or leaving the direction up to one person.
Understand exactly who you’re speaking to
You may be a trade-focused school looking to recruit working parents, or a liberal arts school going after Gen Z, or a liberal arts school that’s faith-based and wants to attract students with similar core values. Defining your audience before you shoot video helps you identify which differentiators will really impact them in your video.
Take time to flesh out buyer personas through a mix of research and interviews with current students, parents of students when applicable, and alumni. Consider what your ideal student population would look like, and define a persona for each of those people.
Know the story you want to tell
Narratives connect prospects to your brand. Show them how they fit into the bigger picture. Above all, show them what connecting with your brand will mean to them. Don’t make it all about you. Focus on concrete value to your audience—career advancement, professional networking, specific experiences. Video gives you the power to tell short, impactful stories that speak directly to the audience you have in mind.
Stetson University College of Law knew their campus offers unique benefits to students. With a pool, classic architecture, historic details, beautiful grounds, and proximity to the beach, it’s a truly unique campus in the law school space. They developed a short video for prospects that highlights exactly what it’s like to be on campus.
Eckerd College developed fully personalized welcome videos to admits, fostering a strong connection from the moment of admission. The video tells the story of life at Eckerd, focusing not only on academics but the benefits of studying in St. Petersburg on their active, waterfront campus.
Crowdsource your video topics
While the final shot list should be put together thoughtfully, that strategy will benefit from soliciting feedback and suggestions from multiple departments at your educational institution. The strategic enrollment team may have one perspective, while professors working with a specific student organization have another entirely. No matter how experienced you are at enrollment marketing, you can benefit from the fresh perspective of current students and leaders.
As long as you set expectations properly during the brainstorming process, this approach may bring you surprising, engaging topics to cover during a video shoot — and may even inform other elements of your admissions marketing.
Align your enrollment marketing to specific audiences
There’s no such thing as a video that will appeal to all of your prospects. Plan on producing short, impactful videos for individual audiences. Because those audiences’ needs will change over time, budget for redoing these videos every few enrollment cycles. The last thing you want to do is deliver something dated or irrelevant when you’re aim is to make a great first impression.
Videos should also appeal to different stages of the buyer’s journey. You can connect with prospects at every stage, from introducing them to the idea of pursuing a graduate degree, to outlining the difference between your program and an alternate program.
Beware video production partners who can’t back up video plans with alignment to your enrollment marketing strategy. Your video needs to be more than pretty or slickly produced. It needs to matter to the people who are making a huge life decision.
Repurpose video across multiple channels
Don’t forget the value of using video to influence retention and matriculation.
Video marketing can be a steep investment, so make the most of it. Distribute video across landing pages, emails, YouTube, and social media. Make animated gifs using the video you’ve produced. Ask your video production studio for shorter clips for Facebook and LinkedIn ads.
For every short video you produce, map out exactly how it will fit into your overall enrollment marketing strategy. Don’t forget the value of using video to influence retention and matriculation. Video that emphasizes the value of studying at your institution can help combat summer melt.
Don’t use a champagne budget for every video
Consider the purpose of your video when you set your budget. Video that plays in the hero area of your website should be high budget, beautifully produced content. Instagram stories can and should be shot with an iPhone. A live webinar should have excellent sound and clean lighting, but you don’t need multiple cameras.
Try a mix of highly produced videos and video your marketing team can shoot without professional assistance. A one-time investment in iPhone videography tools will get you halfway there. Your internal marketing and communications department will need to commit to learning basic video editing software for the best results.
Basic in-house capabilities help you capture events, webinars and student testimonials throughout the year. When you pair video produced by a third party vendor with what you can accomplish in house, you should be able to cover all of your needs.
Get the right people in front of the camera
Who you get on camera can make or break the quality of a video you use to market your higher education programs. Not everyone will come across naturally; tap a variety of personalities for your video shoot. Your full video strategy should include students, instructors, and alumni. Each of these groups can speak to different elements of what your school has to offer. For private primary school and high school enrollment marketing, consider getting parents on camera as well.
Have dedicated team members on hand to work with the “talent” you’re using. Snacks (yes, for adults), distractions, and some old-fashioned encouragement will help the shoot go by smoothly.
Keep inclusion in mind as you select topics and participants. If your institution’s values include a commitment to diversity, your videos should illustrate that.
Take advantage of video from influencers
Today’s students — starting younger than ever — are more familiar with video production than most marketing professionals. Encourage current students to share video. These education influencers have a different perspective, and will produce video that’s authentic, in the moment, and compelling to their peers.
The key is to let go of expectations and control. You’re not going to get what you’d get from a video production company, but you will get off-the-cuff content that works perfectly for distribution across video-rich social channels.
Solicit video from current students via a social campaign, a contest, or a traditional influencer campaign. When paying influencers, be aware of proper disclosure requirements.
Showcase your online courses
Thirty percent of college students took at least one distance education course during the 2015-2016 academic year. The flexibility of distance learning has appealed to more and more students for the 14th year in a row. If you have online courses, preview them using video. This can mean a screengrab of your online portal, or previews of video classes. Transparency answers common questions and speaks to potential pain points and uncertainty around studying online.
Get as much done as you can in one shoot
When you bring a production company onto campus for a multi-day shoot, work closely with them to put together a game plan that covers as many topics as possible. Be clear from the start of your engagement that you expect multiple edited videos. Make sure they understand your needs. A good production company will know best practices around video for ads, short overviews for social and YouTube, and more in-depth student profiles and case studies.
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