What is a Modern Student Recruitment Marketing Campaign?

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

Posted by: Marketing

Are you struggling to meet your recruitment goals? Enhanced marketing will certainly help you on your way. Learn what an effective student recruitment marketing campaign consists of in today’s competitive marketplace. Strengthen your school or program’s reputation, extend your reach, generate additional leads, attract more qualified applicants, and ultimately, increase overall enrollment.

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Why is marketing so important for colleges?

For marketing directors struggling with how to increase enrollment, successfully recruiting students is often a real challenge. Institutions of higher education face competition from over 5,000 colleges and universities located throughout the United States. 

In addition to a crowded marketplace, schools and their associated programs face the very real challenges of our rapidly changing world. College enrollment has been declining for several years due to a variety of factors including economic changes, shifting demographics, lack of government support, and financial challenges faced by prospective students and their families. 

In order to maintain or increase enrollment, marketing directors must seek out new ways of attracting qualified applicants. For this sector, as for so many others, effective marketing is often what separates growing companies from those that are failing. In fact, according to Entrepreneur.com, you're likely to grow to the extent that you master marketing, and no more.

To reach their target audience and push aside the competition, universities and the many programs associated with institutions of higher education must advertise.


What are today’s higher education marketing best practices?

In today’s crowded higher education marketplace, it’s not enough to simply offer the degrees and programs that applicants are seeking. You need to attract attention to your institution – both the tangible benefits it offers and the intangible assets that set it apart. Traditional marketing strategies still have an important place in today’s increasingly digital, highly competitive, ever-changing marketplace, but they aren’t enough on their own.

Our successful Student Recruitment Marketing Strategy has 3 Pillars.

  1. DISCOVER your marketing goals, identify your target market persona, and explore the best marketing tactics for the job at hand.

  2. CREATE a holistic plan that includes the right mix of paid advertising (digital and traditional) and earned, owned, and shared media.

  3. EXECUTE your campaign, track your results, and refine if necessary.

Three Deliverables of Exceptional Service-Pillar

Let’s explore each aspect of an effective and efficient enrollment campaign.

A successful student recruitment campaign is properly planned.

In the words of Entrepreneur.com, “A marketing campaign isn't something that comes to you while you're taking a shower. Successful campaigns tend to be carefully researched, well thought-out and focused on details and execution, rather than resting on a single, grand idea.” 

Marketing departments can’t just try marketing strategies and advertising tactics at random and expect them to succeed. Through proper planning, marketing campaign managers will enhance their institution or program’s image, elevate its brand, attract and engage qualified leads, and thereby increase enrollment.

We offer a number of tools to help you plan your student recruitment campaign. From a recent blog post on the top five campus advertising strategies for college recruitment, to worksheets designed to assist you in refining your marketing goals, to modern marketing best practices checklists, we’ve got you covered!




A successful student recruitment campaign is integrated.

An integrated marketing strategy for higher education incorporates traditional campus advertising, digital marketing tactics, and even some public relations. 

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 holistic view incorporates 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.

The importance of digital media: 

Digital marketing solutions are vital for enrollment campaign success. Colleges and universities cater mostly to Millennial and Generation Z audiences, both digitally native demographics. To advertise to and connect with these groups, you must include a digital advertising strategy in your marketing plans.

It’s important to choose the channels that best fit your needs and are proven to deliver real results. For marketing directors looking to increase enrollment in today’s 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.

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.



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


The role of traditional media and advertising: 

Whether you’re trying to attract community college students to your four-year campus or recruiting existing students for advanced education programs, specific degree programs or wellness services, effective campus advertising helps you meet your recruitment goals.

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 attract new leads through strategically placed outdoor and transit advertising, print advertisements, chalk art and graffiti.


+ See the top 3 things to know about campus advertising campaigns.


How PR fits into the picture:

The public image that you create and promote for your school is vital to recruiting students. When your reputation both reaches and speaks directly to your target audience, you will generate meaningful results and move your KPI’s forward.


+ Learn more about how to attract college students with PR campaigns.


Effective ways for colleges to build their brands include earning media coverage, engaging in influencer marketing and taking part in successful promotional events. Hosting campus open houses and participating in post-secondary informational events at high schools can be especially helpful in recruiting students.

Influencer marketing in particular has exploded with the growth of social media. Mentions and shares on sites like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, TikTok and Linked-In reach millions of viewers. Whether individuals share your content with their peers or high-profile influencers speak favorably of your organization, you gain exposure, build positive brand awareness, and engage more of your target audience.


+ Learn how to develop a customized integrated marketing strategy with the PESO framework.



A successful student recruitment campaign is full-funnel.

To effectively motivate your target audience to act, it’s important to understand their journey from the top of the funnel (awareness), through the middle (consideration), to the bottom (decision/action). Taking the time to grasp this process is another modern property marketing best practice.


+ Learn more about the Buyer’s Journey.




What else do I need to know to plan a student recruitment campaign?

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this post, and I hope you find it helpful. Recruiting Students – A Marketing Plan to Increase College Enrollment (a guide to our highly effective college recruitment approach) contains even more information about enrollment campaign best practices and how to plan a student recruitment campaign step-by-step.




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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