As emotions are running high, and the noise is only getting louder, reaching out and engaging with the student audience at the moment is no easy feat. But that’s no reason to pull back and take the quieter path; as the saying goes, work smarter, not harder. Cue ways to reach out to this overwhelmingly confused and distressed audience, smartly and efficiently, ahead of the new academic year.

Don’t compete, when you can be on the same side

Content marketing is key right now. As your prospective students have been pushed right back down the funnel, they are not as active an audience as they may have been at this time last year. Content marketing is a superb way to attract this passive audience while they’re still trying to make decisions, as results chaos continues to play out. A recent survey from Student Hut found that 55% of students now spend longer reading news each day organically and despite the surge in social media news consumption, seven in 10 students still use news sites. A generation existing in the world of ‘wokeness’, Covid-19 and questionable politics, the news is a place they reside in more than ever, so make sure you’re there too. 

We know that at this point in the year search bidding can be expensive, and, with a passive audience, may not be as effective as students may not be ready to convert. The solution? Many of the big news outlets are already bidding on those important terms for you. For example, The Guardian is appearing under search terms such as ‘A-Level U-Turn’, so opt for being on their pages instead of competing for space. Takeovers on education pages and sections are a great way to raise that awareness and intention in a considered and appropriate way. And when you are there, amongst the news of U-turns, result delays, and Covid chaos, pivot your messaging. Think of how you can convey messages of reassurance, empathy and understanding to make your institution appeal to this unsettled audience. Rather than a hard sell on enrolments or Clearing places which could give the impression that you haven’t read the room.

Have a plan for when there can be no plan

One thing that 2020 has taught us, is that nothing is predictable. Results Day has come and gone, but that in no way means your work is done. Our advice all year round; start planning early, and ensure it’s sustainable. Many of you would have done just that, having contingency budgets set aside for post-Results Day activity. Well this year, extend that again. As new policy developments (and potential predictions of second spikes) are still coming in, don’t map out all your budget. You’ll need to be agile, react fast and have budget available to spend when you need it. 

Re-consider your audience targeting

While the conventional first-year students are continuing to be dragged from pillar to post, unsure what to do or where to go, there are other opportunities to explore. Think mature students for example (our Creative Director has some insight on that) and BTEC students. Can these audiences help fill the gaps? Think about what messaging is appropriate for this very different audience, who may not be dealing with results chaos, but could be looking to retrain or add to their professional qualifications. What can you do to reassure these students that your institution is the right one for them? 

One of our clients, which has over half its students come from non-traditional backgrounds, has used tailored messaging to successfully target the mature student audience: what may be right for the average Gen Zer isn’t right for someone who already has 10 years’ work experience under their belt. The focus for mature audiences should be around taking the opportunity to own their future, making a positive change and supporting them to take that leap into the unknown, with the reassurance that you’ll be there to help when needed.

If you’d like to find out more about how you can still reach more students and boost your recruitment numbers this year, get in touch with our experts today.

Article by

Nick Wilmer

Head of Client Strategy