Bringing Human Connections to Campus

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Natalie Marsh
by Natalie Marsh

Hurry! Grab people as quickly as possible. Get all of your unique points across. In a concise headline and tagline. And don’t forget a clear call to action – with the ideal user experience. But don’t say TOO much, you don’t want to lose them.
Still with me? We’ve all seen the research on GenZ’s 8-second attention spans – 10 seconds if you’re lucky. Needless to say, Colleges and Universities are tasked with communicating their points of differentiation in a segmented, saturated and costly media landscape. And let’s be clear, this is one of the biggest decisions a young adult can make – where he/she will study and receive their undergraduate education. A decision on where they will live for four years – and oh by the way, pay hundreds of thousands on tuition. So how can Colleges overcome these daunting challenges? You have 8 seconds. Go.

Make a Connection

Leverage your own students as influencers and content generators through events, hashtags, and an on-campus experience that organically builds ambassadors for your school. A message coming from a current, satisfied student is inherently more credible than one coming from the University, and it’s something that can’t be bought. This is an opportunity to communicate what the University stands for and how it comes to life. Brand morality matters more than ever – GenZ-ers want to be part of something bigger. What’s your campus culture? How will your University prepare them to make a lasting impression on society? People who live it every day can get these unique selling points across faster and in a personal way.

Maintain a presence

One connection is great, but you need more than one to build a community. It’s essential that your brand meets people where they live, and integrates itself into existing behaviors—whether they’re consuming media or creating it. GenZ is the first generation to use a mobile device more than ANY other. That means a brand’s presence in the marketplace goes beyond advertising. A University’s website is the ultimate brand testimony – and it’s no longer enough to be mobile-enabled. It has to be mobile-first.
This generation also responds well to video. “But wait, GenZ-ers don’t watch TV.” True, but in this landscape, even broadcast has to live as digital video. Outlets like Hulu/OTT/and streaming video target content through internet devices and SmartTVs so viewers see what they want, when they want to watch it. 

Slow and Steady

This doesn’t all happen overnight. College is a long decision-making process, so this isn’t going to be one and done. Once you engage, it’s important to have a resonating message that encourages repeat interactions and develops natural touchpoints along the way. You can spread advertising efforts out over several months, but organic social, community management, and real, human connections with existing students are more meaningful than ever as high school students determine the best place to spend their college years. That means the definition of “advertising” is changing on a fundamental level, and we have an opportunity to use content not only to drive enrollment, but to develop and disseminate a cohesive, thriving college culture.