The Secret Weapon for Higher Education Marketing

Donna Lehmann knows a thing or two about marketing in the higher education field.

As she explains in an article in Insider Higher Ed, “I was part of the first wave of web communications professionals hired in higher education in the late 90s. Web communications wasn’t exactly a thing yet, but most of us brought writing and editing skills to the table along with technical skills (primarily HTML and Photoshop). We had titles like ‘web coordinator’ and our positions represented an acknowledgment that the web was an increasingly important communications channel.

“As the aughts progressed, our marketing responsibilities grew. There was online advertising to place, analytics to track, social media to manage, email marketing to deploy, and search engine optimization to master. Nearly twenty years later, those ancillary web activities have become primary marketing tactics. Subsequently, some people like me have moved out from under the ‘web’ or ‘online’ title to head marketing offices.

“This is a very long-winded way of saying I know squat about print.”

Technically perhaps, as she admittedly relies on her team to understand the mechanics of publishing in print. But she’s well aware of the value of print in higher education marketing. In fact, Lehmann cites several studies about print that prove its value, especially in her field.

“Print is tactile. Print invites you to linger,” Lehmann notes. “Print can be tucked away conveniently and pulled out again and again. Print can be framed and hung on your wall. And these sentiments don’t seem to be generational.”

She’s right; younger audiences prefer print for “things that matter,” much as older generations do. And when it comes to developing brand recognition and building trust, print excels.

Still, print can be resource-heavy to create. So, Lehmann has a few recommendations for her fellow higher education marketers.

Some of that advice we agree with wholeheartedly, like her advice to invest in the best design, copy, images and stock you can afford for your special pieces. Still, we think she might want to rethink her admonition about saving print for someone special, and not using it as a top-of-the funnel tactic. We like to picture that college-bound senior and her family poring over a stack of college brochures scattered around the kitchen table.

Sure, save the full admissions catalogs for the clearly interested lead, but don’t overlook the value of a well-printed brochure at College Day, or a direct mail piece to a highly targeted list. The ROI potential there can be significant.

When college recruiters and admissions officers visit local high schools, they come armed with one thing, according to Sandy Hubbard in Print Media Center.

“Print is their main selling tool,” Hubbard, a marketing consultant who volunteers at the college center at her local high school, writes. “Thousands — and sometimes hundred of thousands — of dollars are riding on the impressions that these recruiters make. Nobody is spouting off web addresses during these presentations. It’s all print,” she says.

Looking to engage that young, digitally-savvy consumer? Try the one secret weapon they can’t resist: reach them in print.