The way students are thinking about the future is changing, and further and higher education marketing teams are taking notice.
Living through Covid-19 and economic uncertainty has affected how students view education. The next generation of students is more likely to choose courses that guarantee future success in their lives and careers. They’re also more likely to base their choices on the experience of former students, and the values of the institution.
Student expectations might be changing, but there is an opportunity for further education to benefit. By using the principles of online reputation management, universities and colleges can safeguard their future.
Why you should care about your online reputation
In the age of digital transparency, everyone has a reputation, whether they want one or not. People are constantly posting reviews, updates and sharing stories about their experiences. They’re also relying on the experiences of other people before making a decision about a purchase or service. In fact, 68% of Gen Z reads 3 or more reviews before making a purchase.
Online reputation management (ORM) is essential because it allows you monitor, improve and enhance how you’re seen by others. PR and marketing campaigns involving ORM help higher and further education institutions in a variety of ways, including:
Encouraging prospective students
Future students are more likely to base their choices on student success stories and positive reviews. This shift isn’t just prevalent in further and higher education. It reflects a growing change in consumer behaviour all over the world. In particular, Generation Z will likely read 3 or more reviews before making a purchase.
This is why effective marketing strategies involving reputation management are so important. Using these latest trends as a guide, the future of student recruitment may be determined by credibility, trustworthiness and engagement.
Generation Z is reportedly less likely to trust an FE or HE institution than any other generation. The COVID-19 pandemic encouraged a great deal of uncertainty for student enrolment. Prior to this, many universities and colleges faced backlash with rising reports of campus sexual violence and harassment.
A positive online reputation boosts credibility and helps build trust with prospective students and their parents. Positive reviews and student success stories are a few of the marketing tactics that could dispel cynicism with new students.
Further education marketing is undergoing a dramatic shift. In the past, it may have been enough to promote college ratings, but this marketing tactic may fall short today. While this kind of information is still important, today’s students are asking more from universities and colleges.
A massive 86% of students look at an institution’s track record on social issues such as LGBTQ+ rights and racial justice when applying. Showcasing a university or college’s dedication to tackling social issues, therefore, will likely stand out amongst prospective students.
There has been a significant drop in the number of applications for education roles in recent months. With growing concern over the current teacher shortage, recruiting high-quality candidates has become increasingly difficult.
A positive reputation isn’t just important for further and higher education marketing, it’s fast becoming a strong recruitment tool also. Recruiters are continually looking to digital to help with obtaining high quality candidates. Strategies such as sharing staff success stories are some of the ways recruiters can forge connections and increase the talent pool.
Helping in a crisis
Crisis communications is a crucial element in digital marketing and public relations. If something does go wrong, your carefully cultivated reputation will help soften the damage.
However, you will also need to respond quickly and effectively to control the situation. Your educational brand identity can be quickly tainted by negative reviews and stories. As Warren Buffet famously said, ‘it takes 30 years to build a reputation and 30 seconds to destroy it.’
How to take control of your online reputation
Professional PR and marketing teams know the value of protecting and enhancing online reputations. Now more than ever, it’s important to understand what people are saying about you online, and why. The following steps can help you take control of how you appear to prospective and current students.
Before you start building a positive online reputation, it’s important to understand what your current reputation looks like. A quick Google search will help you understand what students see when they search for your institution. It will also help you determine how you perform on search rankings.
SEO and content creation
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of online reputation management. Professional further and higher education marketers know that hardly anyone takes their search beyond the first page of Google. Therefore, you can change the narrative around your institution using the principles of search engine optimisation.
Search engine optimisation is the process of achieving a high ranking for your website or web page on search engines such as Google. You can achieve this by publishing relevant, authoritative and high-quality content consistently.
Student success stories
Gen Z students are prioritising long term success over placement in the rankings. Students want the further education institutions they choose to teach them the skills they need to succeed in life. Therefore, content that showcases the success of graduate students may prove more attractive than many other digital marketing tactics.
Social media marketing
Growing your presence on social media should be a vital part of your further and higher education marketing strategy. Most new and prospective students are likely to be a part of the first completely digital generation. They have been raised using social media, which they commonly use to get information about products or services.
Therefore, social media offers an opportunity for universities and colleges to reach their target audience. In fact, your presence on social media isn’t just convenient for students, it’s expected by them as well.
This year, it was announced that the video sharing platform TikTok managed to surpass Google as the most popular search engine. Short videos have proven to be the most engaging type of content, which is why a marketing strategy involving video creation works so well.
Digital marketing strategies involving video can give further and higher education institutions an opportunity to increase exposure. Video is growing in popularity, and it typically sticks around for longer than any other content type.
An increasingly popular tactic in further and higher education marketing is to use conversational AI tools. In the digital age, students want to be able to access information quickly, without scrolling endlessly on university websites. Chatbots can meet the exceptions of students by responding to requests instantly, and in many different languages.
Reputation management firm
It may be necessary to appoint a professional reputation management firm as part of your tactic to increase student enrollment. Reputation management firms can address complaints, track issues, remove negative comments and provide guidance as part of the service.
Online reputation management is fast becoming a vital part of everyday life, not just for institutions, but for individuals too. Taking the opportunity to monitor and enhance your exposure will help you stand out for all the right reasons.