With over 4,000 higher education institutions in the United States alone, carving out a distinct identity and attracting a diverse mix of students, faculty, and donors has become an increasingly complex challenge for schools. 

The revolution of digital tools and platforms has dramatically shifted how colleges and universities attract potential students. As a result, crafting a well-rounded and effective higher ed marketing approach now requires integrating digital strategies with traditional outreach methods.

Why should schools and universities use content marketing to reach prospective students?

Content marketing is the bridge between schools and students, a tool to communicate not just the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’ and the ‘how’. The higher education experience is well-suited for narrative-driven marketing approaches that communicate student experiences and the school’s brand.

In this post, we’ll look at five ways schools and universities can use content marketing, and how Skyline Studio can help you create high quality content that elevates your brand and attracts prospective students.

1. Make a lasting impression with video marketing.

Crafting engaging video content should be a top priority when marketing to today’s prospective students. This is because teens between the ages of 13-17 use video platforms more than any other online platforms, according to Pew Research. 

Skyline’s video reel for the Loyola Marymount Lions men’s basketball team demonstrates how video can be used to attract talented student-athletes to the university’s sports programs. Short-form video also encourages widespread sharing on social media, which in turn increases visibility and brand awareness.

Video content that performs well in higher ed marketing includes:

  • University branded videos
  • Orientation/Welcome videos
  • Graduation videos and videos of keynote speakers
  • Student stories
  • Behind-the-scenes content
  • Student vlogs and testimonials
  • Interviews with faculty

Why it works: Visual storytelling with video is a powerful way to connect with prospective students and provide a glimpse into campus life, extracurricular activities, and the overall student experience. A good video marketing strategy can also foster a prospective student’s sense of aspiration to be part of a community that aligns with their educational goals and values. 

See: How to Build a Video Sale Funnel to Attract and Nurture Leads

2. Craft compelling narratives with written content.

With 70% of prospective students using search engines to find information about schools, it’s now more important than ever for schools and universities to adopt a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy that keeps their name on the first page of search results.

Creating blogs and branded online content are two excellent strategies for increasing SEO for search rankings. Schools can leverage blog posts, infused with SEO strategies, to address common searches and questions posed by potential students. 

One excellent example of this is UC Irvine’s UC Unfiltered, which is written by current students in collaboration with Office of Undergraduate Admissions. They feature content that appeals to both current students and prospective students with posts like, Taking a Tour at UCI and How to Deal with Senioritis.

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Why it works: Prospective students often seek out written content to make informed decisions about their education. Written content allows institutions to provide in-depth information about academic programs, opportunities, and the student experience in a way that contributes to the authority and credibility of the institution. 

3. Make an offline impression with outdoor marketing. 

Outdoor marketing, also known as out-of-home (OOH advertising can be an effective avenue for higher ed marketing. According to one study, 78% of consumers engage in some way after noticing an out-of-home advertisement, making it an excellent strategy for exposure and brand awareness.

Many outdoor advertising channels can now be static or digital images, which gives schools more space to be creative and implement effective content marketing strategies.

Cal State Long Beach promoted their commencement ceremony using stadium advertising at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in 2022.

Image Source: College of Business – California State University, Long Beach. 

Outdoor advertising channels include:

  • Static billboards
  • Digital billboards
  • Street banners
  • Transit advertising (both inside transit and at stops)
  • Street furniture
  • Mobile billboards 

Why it works: Higher ed institutions can strategically place outdoor ads in locations where their target audience is likely to see them. For example, near high schools, shopping centers, or public transportation hubs. They can also be used to promote events or feature QR codes that direct back to specific landing pages on the school’s website. 

4. Visualize success with infographics

Prospective students want to know that they are choosing a reputable school. This is where marketing with infographics comes in. 

Infographics are a popular tool used by universities to distill complex data—such as research findings or the impact of alumni networks—into visually appealing and easily digestible content. 

Southwestern Law School’s 2023 Class Entering Profile shows how an infographic can transform text and numbers into something that can be shared across social media platforms to increase a school’s visibility and shareability among prospective students. 

Why it works: Infographics combine visual appeal, simplification of complex information, data visualization, and shareability for maximum attention grabbing. Universities can leverage brand consistency by using the same colors, fonts and design elements to reinforce brand identity. Infographics can also be an engaging alternative to plain written text on websites.

5. Give a virtual window into campus life with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) 

Virtual reality tours offer an unparalleled, interactive experience that allows potential students to explore campuses across the globe without leaving their homes. 

Universities can showcase their facilities, classrooms, and campus life, providing a visual and auditory experience that mimics an actual visit.

Pepperdine University’s Seaver College virtual experience, for example, gives an immersive tour of the school’s campus.

Why it works: VR campus tours break down geographical barriers, allowing students who otherwise may not be able to visit in person the chance to explore campus remotely. They also demonstrate a school’s forward-thinking approach and commitment to innovation and modernity.

Marketing your school in today’s content-saturated world requires getting creative. 

To stand out, schools and universities should utilize every possible channel for targeting prospective students. Some universities are even using influencer marketing to target prospective students. For example, New York University’s Instagram student takeover series.

Schools can then use an attribution modeling strategy to understand the student journey. Attribution modeling helps schools understand which touchpoints a prospective student encounters and which of these ultimately influences their decision to apply. 

For instance, a student might encounter a bus ad, read a blog post, watch a video, and take a virtual tour before deciding to apply. By analyzing this journey, schools can identify the marketing channels and content types that resonate with their target audience. 

Looking to elevate your school’s digital strategy with content marketing?

Book a free consultation with Skyline Studio to learn how our creative team can dramatically improve your higher ed marketing strategy. 

Book a quick strategy call with our marketing experts!