How to Increase Enrollment with an Integrated Marketing Strategy

Topics: Marketing Toolkit, Public Relations, Millennials + Gen Z, Digital Media, Higher Ed Marketing, Media + Advertising

Posted by: Marketing

In this installment of our Recruiting Students blog series, we complete the DISCOVER stage of marketing strategy development before moving on to stage two - CREATE. Here we discuss how and why to identify the right mix of paid advertising (both digital and traditional) and earned, owned, and shared media for a successful integrated marketing strategy that will increase student enrollment.

CaseStudies_JHU Engineering (10)

If you missed our earlier posts on the DISCOVER stage of marketing strategy development for student recruitment, you can access them here:

+ Learn our proven 3 stage process for establishing marketing goals that will help you run a successful student recruitment campaign.

+ Identifying your target audience increases college recruitment success. Learn more!

What is an integrated marketing strategy and why do you need one?

An integrated marketing strategy for college recruitment incorporates traditional campus advertising, digital marketing tactics, and public relations (PR). By combining tactics from these three marketing arenas, you can extend your reach while each part of your marketing campaign amplifies the efforts of the others. 

This type of holistic plan blends appropriate combinations of traditional out of home and print advertising, display, video, search, social, earned media, influencer marketing and promotional events to produce the outcomes you're looking for. To maximize effectiveness and keep costs in line, you will want to include the right mix of paid, earned, owned, and shared media. And in this increasingly virtual era, digital marketing tactics are especially important.

Digital marketing solutions are vital for enrollment campaign success. 

Universities cater almost exclusively to Millennial and Generation Z audiences, both digitally native demographics. To advertise to and connect with these demographics, you must include a digital advertising strategy in your marketing plans.

The umbrella term “digital marketing” encompasses an enormous range of tactics and new media assets. Everything from paid digital advertising to your website and social media channels falls under this category. The world of digital marketing can be overwhelming. Marketing directors may be tempted to focus the majority of their time, efforts and budget elsewhere. However, this ever-expanding sector is key to attracting students in today’s crowded higher education marketplace. 

Online, email and text marketing reach Millennials and Gen Z audiences exactly where they’re spending the majority of their time – on their smartphones. Through these channels you can amplify your branding efforts, extend your marketing reach and build deeper relationships with your target audience. But where should you focus your digital marketing activity?

It’s important to choose the channels that best fit your needs and are proven to deliver real results. For marketing departments looking to increase enrollment in this highly competitive market, paid ad campaigns are an excellent way to optimize your ROI. Using location specific geo-targeted advertisements (local Pay Per Click) ensures that the impressions you’re paying for reach the candidates you’re pursuing.

MSSmedia PPC 10 Stats That Show Value

+ Learn more about PPC for student recruitment success.

Today’s best digital advertising channels include Google (for search, display, and video), Bing (for search and display), social media campaigns (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter), and emerging media. When it comes to social media, each platform serves a distinct purpose and your company needs to know how to properly utilize each of the platforms you employ.

MSSmedia Social Media Ad Stats

+ See our complete Paid Social Advertising Stats infographic.

Videos are another key marketing tool, and are rapidly growing in popularity. With video, your marketing message can be effectively conveyed to a wide audience faster than ever before. From videos promoting your school, degree program, or student health campaign to virtual campus tours, video marketing plays an increasingly important role in college recruitment.

+ Learn more about the digital marketing tactics that drive successful college recruitment.

Traditional media and advertising also play an important role.

Whether you’re looking to build your brand voice, attract more qualified applicants to a specific major or graduate program, or drive participation in wellness programs and other university initiatives, traditional campus marketing continues to be an important facet of a holistic higher education marketing campaign.

Targeting your advertising efforts geographically is a smart move. College campuses concentrate your target audience in a small area as students live, eat, socialize and learn within a few square miles. Build your brand voice and capture revenue through strategically placed outdoor and transit advertising, print advertisements, chalk art and graffiti.

+ See the top 5 campus advertising strategies for college recruitment.

How does PR fit into the property marketing picture?

The public image that you create and promote for your school or program is a vital part of increasing student enrollment. You need to attract attention to your institution – both the tangible benefits it offers and the intangible assets that set it apart. When your reputation both reaches and speaks directly to your target audience, you will generate meaningful results.

Traditional PR campaigns focused on television, radio, newspaper, and/or magazine coverage. Today’s public relations efforts may also target website, blog and social media channels. The incursion of digital media outlets into the world of PR has blurred the lines between classic public relations and other types of marketing.

With over 15 years of experience providing successful marketing solutions to education clients, we know which tactics get results. We’ve found that media coverage, influencer marketing and promotional events are three of the most important strategies to include in university branding campaigns.

+ Learn more about the best PR tactics for attracting students.

Create a workable integrated marketing strategy using the PESO framework.

Between the many digital marketing channels, traditional advertising options, and PR tactics, there are a prodigious number of approaches that could be included in a student recruitment campaign. It’s essential that you choose the tactics that are right for your school or program, rather than trying to do it all.


“By choosing our path, we choose our destination.” 


The PESO model is a framework for integrating paid, earned, shared, and owned media to create a successful holistic marketing strategy. To use this system, separate potential marketing tactics into four categories - paid media, earned media, shared media and owned media.


When choosing which avenues to include in your marketing strategy, first consider where and how your target audience spends their time. Where do they eat, work, study and relax? Will they notice advertisements placed in these locations? Which social media platforms do they use? Are they likely to engage with email marketing? Do they read the campus newspaper?

Next, think about the media channels you currently use to share information and promote your college or program. How are they performing? Are there ways to optimize channels with low engagement or should these be dropped altogether? Are there tactics you’re not currently using that could amplify your existing efforts and improve outcomes? Keep your goals firmly in mind and choose approaches that will provide real and relevant results.

Time and money matter too. Pay attention to how much you will need to invest to reach your goals using the tactics you choose. Consider the expected time commitment as well, and be sure you have the available bandwidth to take the necessary action steps for success.

By incorporating the PESO framework into our DISCOVER. CREATE. EXECUTE. process, you will be able to develop an effective and efficient student recruitment campaign that includes the right mix of paid, earned, owned, and shared media.

See our complete guide: Recruiting Students – A Marketing Plan to Increase College Enrollment




Here at MSSmedia, we’ve been providing Education, Government, Real Estate & Lifestyle clients with succinct, optimized, and successful marketing solutions for more than 15 years. Consider MSSmedia a full-service, one-stop shop for all your Media and Public Relations needs. Your goals are our motivation. And our mission is to propel your message, further and faster, to achieve the outcomes you’re looking for. If you found this blog post helpful, please share!

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