Cooking the BACN

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Email, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Technology, Web | Posted on 27-09-2007-05-2008

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What is that haunting aroma? *sniff sniff* Smells like your email campaign. Smells like BACN.

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Suspect » Prospect on the Web

Posted by Brian | Posted in Recruitment, Technology, Web | Posted on 24-09-2007-05-2008

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. I have a group of suspects that I’m sending print media to, and I want to upgrade their status to prospect (which means they’ve shown interest in our University) when they return the media they received. Here’s where it gets tricky. I want to implement this process efficiently. See, I knew you’d heard it before.

What’s more, I want to be able to distinguish between each of the groups of suspects that received the mailings in order to report on them in the future. How can something like this be done without tapping your entire data entry department?

It can be done, just use the Web!

That’s right, embrace that Web thing they’ve got nowadays – it’s there to help you. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1 – build a single application on your web server that allows a suspect to enter his/her essentials like name, contact information, and basic academic information, which interfaces with your recruitment software and stores this information.

contactInfo

Step 2 – add a handler to your application that, upon loading, looks at the querystring of the referring URL to find out which group of kids are arriving at your application, then serve them customized content on the web form (if necessary), and give them an activity that specifies the group they belong to.

For the URL http://www.youruniversity.edu/thisapplication/default.aspx?referrer=suspectGroup1 you would know that these suspects are part of “suspectGroup1″ based off the querystring, and you would give them a matching activity of “Suspect Group 1 Web Response” or a derivative thereof.

Step 3 – Set your recruitment software to automatically turn suspects into prospects when they receive the activities you created for this application.

Step 4 – Add the URL to the print media that you send to the kids and direct them to visit the web instead of returning the media. Each group of mailings you send throughout the year should have a unique URL which will be handled by your snazzy web application, and those suspects will be given a unique activity which will allow you to report on them in the future.

Bonus – We felt that plastering a long, dirty URL similar to “http://www.youruniversity.edu/thisapplication/default.aspx?referrer=suspectGroup1″ on our mailings was confusing and potentially hazardous to the student. With all that jumbled mess, what if they entered the URL incorrectly? Solution: set up a series of redirects. This will greatly anger your IIS manager, but that’s a risk we were willing to take.

So, print “www.youruniversity.edu/spring” (or some other unique URL that’s easy to type into the address bar) on your mailing, and make sure that URL redirects to your web application with the correct querystring identifier at the end.

simplyURL

Just like that you have eliminated your data entry department, or at least the data entry required for your suspect mailings. Over the past 2 years I’ve worked to eliminate our data entry department almost entirely by utilizing the web in this manner for most of our business processes. You can too! Just apply the lessons learned from this post to all of your student interactions.

If you’re reading this as a data entry person, I would suggest cutting the hard line to your building and trying to convince your staff that the internet doesn’t exist. It’s worth a shot.

Launching a Blogger Program: Part 3

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Technology | Posted on 21-09-2007-05-2008

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Well, it’s finally out the door. Our blogs/photos/forums have launched at http://go.butler.edu/cs. All 3 areas are fully integrated, and the site has a lot of possibility. You can rate posts, mark favorites, get an RSS for a single blog or for all 8 student bloggers, tag your forum posts, add friends, and much more.

My favorite feature is that you can upload an image to your photo album from your blog WYSIWYG editor, then pull the size of that image you want (thumbnail, small, medium, …) right into the post. As long as space is not an issue, this is a great way to handle resizing issues for the student bloggers. One less thing to train on, I guess. :)

So here’s the tough part: buy-in.

Not the initial buy-in of administration, we’re past that. Now we’re at the end-user level. Getting staff members on board to fully utilize the tool that has been created and is now available for them. Sometimes you wonder if every caveman originally saw the benefit of the wheel, or if they wondered why that other caveman was rolling a large stone everywhere. Similar concept here: will the staff see the use in this? Will they understand the way that our prospective students like to communicate? Are they aware of what tagging is? Will counselors push the link to prospects? Will counselors help answer questions in the forums and build relationships with students through the site?

All I know is that time will tell. We’ll do our hardest to promote the site through email, links, word of mouth, and more. But it’s essentially at the mercy of the prospect, and the willingness of the staff to cultivate the community.

The Lifeblood of IT

Posted by Jesse | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 21-09-2007-05-2008

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DocumentationDocumentationIs documentation.

*sigh*

I know that I just lost 95% of the audience I had, but bear with me I’ll explain myself. Let’s say you have an extremely complex reporting system, or 2 systems that interface and share data. Pretty common, right? Now add in the fact that the data in both cases “starts over” every fall. Obviously I’m talking about Higher ed reporting and our student information systems. Our entry terms change, and the new class starts to roll in. Who knows where you need to change an entry term value in the reporting system? Who will add the translation values in the mapping tables of the interface? If you don’t still have the people at your institution who built the system, 99% of the time you’re going to have someone jump into the documentation at the last minute to figure out all this stuff.

Imagine then, the stress level of above mentioned IT person when they see horrible (if any) documentation. So at the last minute, when VPs and managers are just dying for new and accurate data, you have to try and teach yourself where the variable locations are, what the correct values are, etc. Now you have IT person wound up in an angry stressball that just got behind on everything else he was responsible for. That’s bad.

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2 Dead at Delaware State University

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Delaware State University, Higher Education | Posted on 21-09-2007-05-2008

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Another sad day in the higher education world. 2 students are hospitalized after a gunman stepped on the Delaware State University campus and shot them.

It just kills me when things like this happen, and reminds us all that life isn’t guaranteed to anyone.

The university has moved quickly, issuing a statement for all workers to stay home and that classes are canceled.  I wonder if they had made any changes to their action plan after the Virginia Tech tragedy…

Link: [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20902107/]

Conference Season has Arrived

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education | Posted on 18-09-2007-05-2008

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It’s official, I’m heading to the Stamats Generating Successful Interactive Marketing Strategies Conference in San Diego, CA from Nov. 7-10. I went to the conference in Philly last October and had a great time. I meet a lot of awesome people in Higher Ed and heard a lot of great presentations. This year’s conference looks to be just as good so far. A lot of great presentations that I am looking forward to hearing, specifically Obadiah Greenburg from YouTube and Steve Kappler’s annual TeensTalk presentation. I’m a little sad to see that TargetX won’t be back this year.

I had considered the HighEdWebDev conference after hearing a few things about it, but……. New York in October, or San Diego in November? Not a hard choice for me. Plus, Stamats already proved to me last year that they can do a good conference, so I am going to stick with them again this year. HighEdWebDev looks to have a large variety of presentations to hear from, so I might look into them a little more next year… especially if the location change happens! (Who doesn’t view a conference as a mini-vacation at the same time??)

I’ll likely be live blogging from some of the presentations, so be sure to check back and see what’s happening if you aren’t there. If you are there, look me up and let’s chat!

Brad

The Value of Face Time

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Technology | Posted on 13-09-2007-05-2008

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When I saw earlier this week on their blog that FJ Gaylor Photography was in town, I knew it would be a great opportunity to shoot the breeze with a few other guys in the profession. I shot them an email, and last night we met up at a Starbucks near their hotel. What a great idea it was to get together with them. We ended up talking for nearly 3 hours!

I’ve found that when you’re feeling a little burnt out, a conference (or any interaction with others in the field outside of your workplace) is a great pick-me-up. But the thing is, I’m not even close to burnt out. I’m far from it! With the launch of our bloggers, forums, photos, emails going out daily, launching new sites and features every week, I’m loving every minute of this season. Even still, getting together with Fred and Joe was a great time just talking with a couple of guys who are “in” higher education through their line of work.

They had great insights on some things that universities are doing, aren’t doing, and are doing but shouldn’t be doing. I ran a few ideas by them and got some feedback based on what they’ve seen out there. We talked about my previous two posts on Facebook, the use of Facebook ads and polls, the validity of data/research being put out by companies (and whether we should really take it to heart) , other bloggers in the higher ed sector, conferences and their value, presenting at conferences and what it might entail, some cool websites, colleges who are trying to do things “because the other schools are doing it”, and much more. It was definitely a worthy investment of my time.

If you know Joe and Fred are going to be in your area [and they have some free time!], try and get together and pick each other’s brains. They’ve got great ideas and a great eye for a lot of things in Higher Ed, and they are very familiar with the electronic recruitment side of things.

Thanks FJ Gaylor!
Brad

Launching a Blogger Program: Part 2

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Technology | Posted on 13-09-2007-05-2008

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As we get closer to the launch of our fully interactive bloggers/forums/photos section, I reminisce about something I did last year with my bloggers and will definitely not be doing this year: improperly implementing current technology.

Last post I talked about the power of Facebook, and with every good comes the bad.

Approximately 2 weeks before my bloggers launched last fall, Facebook implemented a new feature: Notes. This provided you with the option of writing notes/blog posts directly into Facebook as well as importing your RSS/Atom feed. Sounded like a great idea at the time… use current technology (Facebook) to import blog posts, which would spread the posts into Facebook and get more visibility for the blogs.

Sounds good, right? Wrong. Such a mistake.

Avoid me, please!

By attempting to leverage this technology, I managed to pull the entire comment conversation off of the blogs and on to Facebook, where there is a 99.999% chance your prospective students are NOT friends with your student bloggers on Facebook. As a result, the communication line was split. Typically in the past, current students of the University would post comments directly on to blog posts (which we were FTP’ing into student accounts from Blogger.com). From there, prospective students would chime in and eventually get comfortable with being a part of the conversation, and as a result they would begin to forge those relationships and build ties with the University, which is great.

With the current students posting their comments to the blogs directly on Facebook, the amount of comments directly visible at the prospective students’ point of view was close to 0 or 1 every time. The blog conversation was essentially going on behind closed doors, shutting out the prospectives.

This is a good example of when using certain types of technology for recruitment does not always have a positive impact. By attempting to make the blogs “cooler” and tying them into Facebook, I shut down any hope of communication/relationship bonding between current and prospective students.

Perhaps there is a way to do it better, but I think the best bet is to allow the conversations and questions to develop on your own blogging platform. This not only helps you be a part of the conversation, it also makes everything easily found in a search of your site.

Launching a Blogger Program: Part 1

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Technology | Posted on 11-09-2007-05-2008

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We are currently in the process of launching our Butler Bloggers, and it’s definitely been more work than I thought it would be. For part 1, we’ll go over 2 main areas: content and selection of the bloggers.

Coming from UIS, we are entering our 4th or 5th year of having student bloggers. I have a very unique background on using student bloggers for recruitment; I was a student blogger at UIS during my senior year [broken links and all, but it's still here!], and then when I took the position as Marketing/Recruitment Specialist at UIS I oversaw the UIS Bloggers during my time there.

Both as a student blogger and as an advisor, I have run into the same problem: content. Walking the fine line between posting on a personal level and talking about what’s going on at the University. Finding meaningful topics to blog about. Getting a reader base, and engaging a reader to comment and discuss the posts. Keep the readers coming back. [Sounds like what we're doing at SquaredPeg right now!].

You’ve heard it before, and I’ll tell you again. The success (or failure) of the blogger initiative comes down to the quality of students you find, and the level of diversity they are able to show the readers. Not diversity in the sense of color of students, prospectives will see through that in a heartbeat. It is very obvious if you are trying to push a ‘diverse’ student as a blogger, and today’s Millennials are smarter than that. Think diversity in the sense of majors, age, involvement levels, where the student lives, internships, and things along those lines. The more areas you can hit, the better the content will be as a whole. When your bloggers all paint a different picture about the University, but it comes together to show the campus as a whole, you have successfully showcased your school. Through the student, to the student.

Yes, finding the right students is difficult. When looking for students, find them on their ground. I put an ad in 2 places: BLUE, the student employment database on campus, and Facebook, using their flyers. BLUE yielded 8 applications in 10 days, Facebook gave me nearly 40. Total cost for the Facebook ad? $50. We ran the flyer to the right for 10 days at 2,500 impressions per day (25,000 total) for a cost of $5/day. I targeted both genders, age 18-24, undergrads only, in the Butler network. By doing this I was able to reach and get a response from 1% of the entire student body. I’d consider that a success.

Then the tough part came, narrowing nearly 50 applications down to 8 bloggers. To do that, we had students fill out an application [which included a trick question and a Rorschach test to get an idea of the personality of the student] , and asked the top 15 to do a sample blog post. Then we took all of that and narrowed it down to our 8 students, so we are ready to roll. These 8 students, who make up 1/5 of 1% of the student body at Butler, are given the opportunity to speak to 20,000+ prospective students. Talk about a responsibility that will help you in the real world. Let’s hope they use their power wisely. :)
What problems are you running into with your Bloggers? Feel free to leave a comment.

Are you falling behind the curve?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Technology | Posted on 06-09-2007-05-2008

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With technology becoming increasingly more important in higher education recruitment, it is easy for a university or college to become overwhelmed. Where should time and resources be invested with all of the opportunities that are available?

At higher ed conferences it is very easy to see the amount of colleges who are scrambling to “catch up” with technology implementation. Traditional marketing directors have a mental meltdown when words such as podcasting, Myspace, Second Life, and YouTube are thrown at them. Communication teams are trying to understand how to create an effective email campaign. Administration struggles with the thought of giving students the ability to speak freely about their experience.

If you find yourself wondering how to catch up with it all and make your university stand out among the mass amounts of digital information every school is spewing into the mix, you’re not alone. Always do some research on the initiatives you are planning. For example, some people in Higher Ed praise the use of SecondLife… but why? You must be 18+ to register for the main site, so what value is there in attempting to recruit students using it? You must always evaluate your projects, and decide “Am I doing this to add value to our comm flow, or am I doing this to keep up with other schools?” If your school has a student body of 3000 primarily rural students, there is likely no need for a lot of the options available. Instead, focus on designing your website to be more appealing and user-friendly.

If you feel that you are falling behind the curve, take a step back and look at your overall recruitment cycle. Pick a few aspects of it that could be improved (or enhanced with technology), and go from there. We’re all trying to keep up with the Millenials, and quite frankly, what’s cool now will likely not be cool in 12 months.