Why targeted recruitment is a key to academic branding.

Target Recruiting

Your students are your most powerful spokespersons

For all the money and time spent on vanilla view books, tortured mission statements, and team logos, independent schools’ students remain their most meaningful ambassadors and opinion-shapers.

They carry the message. They bear the standards. They are the brand. And when they graduate, they continue to represent you for many, many years.

The future of your school steps forward from what you do today, and understanding students at a deeper level is critical because it will refine and shape the recruiting and admissions processes that create the best student body.

Here are 3 steps in the right direction.

Step 1: Define persona groups

If you agree that your students define who you are, then it’s best to start examining them at the persona level.

So look at your student body data. Identify the key persona types by gender, ethnicity, geography, socio economic realities, attitudinal factors, and any other defining criteria. Bring Admissions together with Marketing and other key school leaders to discuss both input and findings.

And here’s the hard part: Define which persona group holds the most value to your school’s near and distant future. Rank all groups in terms of their value to the institution’s mission, reputation, and financial well being.

Here’s a good example of persona group delineation that we did for a private, not for profit online university.

Step 2: Interview members of each cohort

With your core persona types defined, it’s time to do a deeper dive. This involves interviewing a handful of members of each group to probe for subjective answers to a single set of questions. Here are examples from past studies.

  • When you tell friends who don’t attend this school that you go here, how do they react? This question probes for peer awareness levels and perceptions.
  • What do you want your friends who don’t go here to understand about why you do go here? This query probes for how students want the school to reflect upon them.
  • What’s the one thing this school does better than anything else? A simple question that asks the student to define the school’s value on a personal level.
  • If this school was a car, what kind (brand/make/model) would it be? Why? This asks for a value statement based on price and performance.
  • If this school were a dog, what kind would it be? Why? This asks for an assessment of the school’s personality in terms that are completely outside the category.
  • What kind of student will do well here and feel at home here? This is a projective question that asks actually students to describe themselves.

Step 3: Develop content

Once your key persona types are understood in depth and detail – and are ranked according to their value – it is easier to create content for prospects.

You can feature the right images and messages in marketing materials.

You can facilitate student-to-student contact that maximizes the experience for the prospect.

You can know which faculty and staff members are most meaningful and position them accordingly to potential students and families.

Persona knowledge can impact the Open House experience, private tours, interviews, and every other aspect of the application-to-enrollment process.

Result: Get more of the right students

School consultant Greg Bamford said that education is “human and messy.”

We agree. It’s one reason why charting a school’s future can be so difficult.

But it’s important to pinpoint the types of students who genuinely fit your school and use a deeper understanding of them as a basis for more intelligent recruiting. They are the future.