At Up&Up, we’re pretty obsessed with brand strategy. Whether it’s logo design, pillars and platforms or debating the merits of including your direct competitor in your advertising (cue: Burger King), uplifting brands matters to us.
Where things get even more exciting is translating that brand across web experiences and marketing campaigns. If a brand is what’s perceived in the minds of our audience, then the experiences they have with our communications is a primary driver.
What strong brands get right is translating the brand across multiple extensions, touchpoints and applications. Where things tend to get muddled is when there isn’t a unifying message across the communications.
When it comes to enrollment marketing, like ecommerce, gone are the days of linear customer journeys. In fact, gone are the days of the reliable inquiry-to-application model. As timelines get stretched and competition for attention increases across digital touchpoints, how attuned we are to managing our communications is important.
Knowing the responsibilities and the role enrollment marketers play in strategically aligning multiple networks of communications, we’ve created a framework for your next enrollment marketing plan. The input is an examination of how media, consumer and brand truths come together to inform how messaging can turn each touchpoint into a stronger moment.
The output is a Messaging Framework that outlines how to use messaging at specific touchpoints to overcome communications barriers and make the sum of your messaging more effective.
Below, we’ll cover the best way to begin your research, and then illustrate how to turn your research into a stronger enrollment marketing plan using our Messaging Framework.
How to use media, brand and consumer research to plan enrollment management marketing messages
In Brand Media Strategy, Antony Young described the development of an effective messaging plan as defining: “Where to play and how to win.” “Where” is concerned with the consumer journey, touchpoints, receptivity, stages of buying and time. “How” is concerned with how media can drive the brand message harder than the competition through an understanding of media context.
The questions below are meant to help you uncover your specific “where” and “how.” The goal is to understand where along the recruitment journey your communications are most impactful and what messaging you must use to overcome important barriers in the decision-making process. To do so, one must become well versed in media, brand and consumer truths.
If using media to drive the brand messaging harder than the competition is central to effective comms planning, we must understand marketing effectiveness, media contexts that make the message more relevant and how paid and owned media can work collaboratively across the student journey.
- What context or media environment will help my communications be more influential or effective in conveying the brand message?
- Which well-branded, full screen, high-impact media environments should I invest in?
- How can I take advantage of channel synergy and multichannel marketing effectiveness?
In order to turn enrollment objectives into communications goals, identify the true human problem behind the business problem and how your marketing efforts can overcome comms barriers throughout the student journey.
- What is the true problem behind the business problem?
- What distinctive brand assets will help comms get noticed and remembered?
- How can comms enhance my brand’s point of view and positioning?
Next uncover moments of receptivity and refine the selection of these touch points by deciding which will achieve maximum synergy with the message. In a sense, identifying the moments or places consumers will be more receptive to your messaging.
- What compels the customer toward my brand or category?
- What barriers exist that may drive a prospective student from our institution?
- Where are the most relevant places to match the media with the message?
- What places, occasions or times would consumers be more open to find out more about our brand/product?
- Which message is better placed in an active media environment, such as Twitter, or a passive media environment like television?
The goal is to start to develop a sense of what barriers exist that make prospective students question whether or not you are a right-fit. In what ways can you align your messaging to overcome those barriers and what proof can you provide to back up your claims? And finally, where are the best places to communicate key messages?
How to create a Messaging Framework for enrollment marketing
To ensure your enrollment marketing efforts are aligned, we’ve developed a Messaging Framework that keeps your comms idea consistent, crystallizes how you will overcome communications barriers, identifies how you will enhance the brand’s point-of-view and leverage the consumer experience, relative to competing brands at each touchpoint.
There are six key components to our Messaging Framework. We always include the brand promise because your Messaging Framework should be anchored to your brand platform, creating an easy north star to navigate parts of the framework and ensure your messaging is aligned at the brand level.
Second, we identify the audiences we will ultimately target based on the research phase. Each audience gets its own matrix. This is important because, depending on the characteristics of your various segments, different barriers may exist. For example, students more likely to leave their home state may have different needs than first generation students in your own state.
Next, we develop a messaging theme that brings to life the primary proposition or high-level message you need to communicate. This isn’t a campaign or a tagline, it’s simply a way to easily identify the overarching goal of your communications in relation to your audience.
The messaging objective is the primary goal of your communications. What must you communicate to a specific audience to increase the propensity that they will be interested in your institution. We like to use a get/to/by statement to create our objective. For example, “get” high-achieving students from big cities who have access to many different types of colleges “to” consider a college located in a smaller town “by” reframing its removal from “big city life” as a strength.
While the number of barriers is arbitrary, we usually start with three. Barriers are questions or concerns that your target audience has that may keep a prospective student from considering your institution. Barriers can be anything from “the audience knows us only for athletics, not academics” to “we are only known as a liberal arts college.” Whatever the underlying barrier is, the next step is to create a messaging plan to overcome the barrier.
Plan to Overcome Barriers
Returning to the “audience knows us only for athletics, not academics” barrier, a messaging plan could be to strengthen the association between the institution and its location. You could also create a theme around it: “Big SEC school, bigger opportunities.” This acts as a more creative way to bring your framework to life and give a little direction to how you may address the barriers when it’s time to plan creative elements.
Identify Proof Points
Finally, we develop a plan to address each barrier. If we know that athletics is more dominant and we need to strengthen the association between the institution and benefits of its location to overcome this perception, then we need to provide proof–also known as reasons to believe. In this example, we may use the number of Fortune 500 companies that provide avenues for commercial partnerships and internships.
Whether you are a team of one or one of many, we find that creating a thorough messaging plan leads to stronger prospective student journeys. Most often, it’s the advertising that gets the attention. And while advertising alone can work well in isolation, considering the entirety of the marketing messages that a prospective student may come in contact with will only help the effectiveness of your efforts down the funnel. So if you’re looking to improve your marketing across channels and experiences, use our Messaging Framework to help bring clarity to your enrollment marketing plan.