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6 Strategies for Engaging Faculty in your Marketing Efforts

The ultimate brand advocates. That’s how Matt Byerly describes the role that faculty members can play in helping you market your programs to prospective graduate students. 

“Your faculty members are the ultimate window into your degree programs and students,” said Byerly, vice president for marketing at Net Natives. “In my previous role as creative director at Northeastern Illinois University, I realized the value of involving faculty in marketing efforts. They can either make — or break — your plans. So, it’s important to take the time to cultivate relationships with this influential group.” 

If starting the conversation and finding ways to involve faculty in your plans   seems like a daunting task, don’t worry. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Byerly and Net Natives colleagues Carrie Hopkins, director of client growth and media strategy; and Jen Lonchar, vice president of strategy and partnerships; are here to help.    

Read on for their six strategies for leveraging your faculty members in your marketing mix. 

Start with the Dean

If you want support from faculty members, develop a rapport with their dean. 

“Invite them for coffee or lunch, or if schedules are tight, just get some time on their calendar to make your case,” Byerly said. “The key to the conversation is to help the dean understand how your marketing efforts can benefit the college, school, and program.” 

To prepare for the conversation, try to find any data — qualitative or quantitative — that demonstrates how influential faculty are when prospective students are selecting a degree program. For example, this could be pulled from surveys where you ask students who influenced their decision to enroll. Faculty members are often toward the top of the list, especially for graduate students, Byerly added. 

“Your explanation of why faculty involvement is important to your efforts is valuable,” he said. “But, it’s going to pack a much bigger punch if you can back it up with data.” 

Listen and Learn

Once the dean is on board, approach three to five faculty members you know are eager to engage and promote their students and classes.

“Do what you can to create a really positive experience for them,” Byerly said. “Then, they’re likely to return to their colleagues, share their experience, and urge others to participate. Word-of-mouth advertising is often the best way to convince folks to join in.” 

Like you did with the dean, take time to really listen to their ideas, frustrations, and challenges, said Hopkins, who previously worked in marketing at Southern Nazarene University and Trevecca Nazarene University. 

“Show them that you’re taking their input seriously,” she added. “And find out why they love teaching in the program. Most faculty members have amazing student stories that drive their passion for the program or course they teach. Take that ‘why’ and use it in marketing materials.”

Making them feel like their voices and thoughts are being heard is key to your success, Lonchar agreed. 

“Use their knowledge in the fact-finding part of your campaign,” she said. “Not only will they feel included, but you’ll have a better understanding of the program and the audience you’re targeting — which will lead to better ROI down the road.”  

Invite them to a Shoot

Byerly found that many faculty members really loved to see their classes and/or students featured in marketing collateral.

“So, an easy strategy I had to get them involved was inviting them to participate in video or photo shoots of their classes,” he added. “They just loved seeing their students featured in things like social media posts and view books.” 

And when you invite them, remember that many of your faculty members might not have much experience in front of the camera. 

“Since you’re doing everything you can to make this a good experience — so they want to do it again and sing your praises to their colleagues — don’t forget to provide them with the information they need prior to the shoot to make it a success,” Byerly added. 

You’ll want to walk the faculty members through what will happen. For example, with a photo shoot, will you be staging shots or just shooting what naturally occurs during class? With a video shoot, provide them with any questions they’ll be asked in advance, so they can prepare responses. 

And be sure to provide any tips about the color or type of clothing that should be worn. 

“For example, you don’t want them wearing white if the background is white, and you don’t want someone in a lab environment wearing shoes and clothing that don’t conform to safety standards,” Byerly said. “Basically, do everything you can to make them feel comfortable going into the shoot. That creates goodwill — and better videos and photos, because the faculty members aren’t facing surprises the day of the shoot.”

Involve them in Recruiting

Another way to appeal to faculty members’ love for their students is to invite them to participate in recruiting events. 

“In my experience, programs that performed the best had program directors and faculty members engaged in helping to fill cohorts,” Hopkins said. “Ask them to attend information sessions, and if they’re willing, see if they will call select applicants to introduce themselves and answer questions.” 

At Byerly’s previous institution, they experienced a lot of success with getting faculty members from the MBA program to participate in information sessions and other recruitment/yield events. 

“They know the program better than everyone else and can provide a first-hand account,” he added. “Getting them in front of your prospective students is one of the best forms of advertising you have access to!”

Leverage them on LinkedIn

When it comes to connecting with prospective graduate students, LinkedIn is probably the strongest social media platform for you to use, Hopkins said. 

“This is the channel that professionals flock to,” Hopkins said. “People come to LinkedIn to search for jobs and professional opportunities, and to improve professionally. So, this is a perfect place for your faculty to participate in efforts to market your programs.”

Encourage them to create an account (if they don’t have one already), connect with students in their program, and like and comment on their posts when students share an achievement or professional thoughts. 

“You can also ask them to post links to blogs, articles, and other key resources you want prospective students to be aware of,” Hopkins added.  

Set Expectations

Regardless of how you’re engaging faculty in your marketing efforts, be sure to define your boundaries and expectations before getting started.

“Remember that your faculty members might be experts in their field, but they probably aren’t experts in marketing,” Lonchar said. “For example, I’ve seen campaigns be delayed for weeks, because people couldn’t agree on the right font to use in ads. So, defining who is responsible for what up front can help you save time and money down the road.” 

Because faculty members can feel like they know their program best, they might have strong opinions on things like which social media channels should be used or the language that should be included in marketing content. 

“While you want to be respectful of their opinions, your job is to be the expert on the final marketing products,” Byerly said. “So, be clear and tactful in explaining the role you’ll play and the role you’re hoping they will play — and on how much of their time will be required.” 

Finally, you may have to flat out tell them “no” when it comes to certain ideas. And that’s OK, Hopkins said.

“Marketing leaders have one budget and must be a good steward of those funds,” she added. “Sometimes that requires tough conversations and saying ‘no.’ The important element in doing so is explaining why you are saying ‘no’ and showing them the path forward.”

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