Colleges and universities are no strangers to video. They have been using student recruitment videos for decades. But as the changing economy transforms the face of higher education, established colleges and newer education service providers are finding novel uses for video in their recruiting strategy.
According to the Kaltura 2018 State of Video in Education Survey, 57% of higher education providers say they use video for marketing. This could include new student recruitment, alumni communications, or general marketing communications.
Although the majority of higher education providers are using video, they’re not all using it in the same way. Some are relying on traditional formulas. Others are seeking opportunities to differentiate themselves in a fairly saturated market. And still others are sampling video cautiously, struggling to balance quality with cost.
However they use it, according to Kaltura most higher education marketers agree that student recruitment videos can improve their marketing mix.
Why Use Video For Student Recruitment?
“It’s a good way to get quick key messages across and get a sense of the brand and what you stand for.” said Kate Mosteller, VP of Marketing at Penn Foster.
“It’s a medium that I think is only going to get larger.” Mosteller said. “ It is so important because it’s a way that our audiences want to be able to communicate with us and engage with us.”
Senior Director of Marketing Services at Education Dynamics, Johnna Weary, says engagement is one of the prime reasons to use video.
“People are drawn in to video,” Weary said. “That movement catches the eye and people are clicking on it. And they’re not just clicking on it, they’re also then converting.”
Navid Ladha of PelotonU, sees video as a tool in the toolbox. “I think it helps drive the message. Videos definitely work.”
How To Use Video For Student Recruitment
Video can serve many functions for institutions of higher education. First, it captures student attention; but then it can also answer questions students didn’t know they had about what it’s like to be a student of that institution. If done well, it can help schools stand out and convey their value proposition in a easy-to-digest format. Schools are using video for these purposes – and more – at various stages of the recruitment cycle.
Classic College Recruiting Videos
We all know the elements of a college recruiting video. Get some shots of students having fun and learning. Combine those with footage of your beautiful college campus on a bright, sunny day. Get some students to talk about the feeling of community and how the professors really care. Then wrap the whole thing up with some uplifting music, and you have a college recruitment video.
Or you could do something unique:
This video from Boston College targets the top of the funnel in a new way. Not only does it have a cinematic feel, but it taps into a cultural obsession. Many students will watch of out sheer curiosity. The animated sections aren’t of the highest quality, but they do add to the overall fantasy feel. It’s a major departure from the classic landscapes and students-in-action shots that usually dominate college recruitment videos.
Student Inspiration Videos
Penn Foster has found that graduation videos perform well on their YouTube channel. Not only do new graduates appreciate seeing themselves honored, but current and potential students use these videos as sources of inspiration. It reminds them what they’re working for.
Simply recording your graduation ceremony and putting it online isn’t enough. This video is well-edited and carefully paced with a powerful soundtrack. All of those elements combine to inspire current and future students.
Student Testimonial Videos
Like graduation videos, student testimonial videos helps students envision themselves as part of your student body. When you realize that 70% of millennial consumers value peer endorsement over celebrity endorsement, it makes sense why testimonial videos work. Students feel they can trust people they can relate to.
In this video from Penn Foster, real graduates speak to the camera while wearing their mortarboard and robe.
Instructional Videos For Potential Students
A less obvious application for video is in helping students who have started the enrollment process to stay on track. Education Dynamics has been helping one of their partner schools to create abandoned application emails, similar to abandoned cart emails. Each email contains a video that helps the student pick up where they left off by walking them through that stage of the application process. Although the campaign is still in the developmental stages, Weary has high hopes for it.
Barriers To Video
For traditional universities, one of the major barriers to quality video production is the sheer size and complexity of their institution. A recruitment video that works well for the online Bachelor’s in Computer Science program might not work as well for their on-campus Master’s in English Literature students. Yet creating unique videos for each program and department quickly becomes cost-prohibitive.
Weary recommends a centralized approach. Traditional schools should create a repository of video clips and brand elements that can be assembled to create effective marketing videos for all different departments.
“You can have a central set of resources that benefits everyone, as long as they listen and get feedback from the people that are using that video,” Weary said.
Online-only schools face a different set of challenges. Balancing cost and quality can be a major factor for these schools and education service providers. Since online schools already struggle with legitimacy, they may worry that anything other than the highest-quality video could cast them in a poor light.
These are some of the concerns that PelotonU has wrestled with. They have a small team with no in-house digital marketer. Thus far, the cost of producing quality student recruitment videos has prevented them from venturing too far into video.
“It’s not as scrappy of a tool,” Ladha said. “If something changes there’s a lot more work that has to be done in editing a video.”
Even so, PelotonU has seen results from video. Simple slide-show style videos used in paid advertising channels like Facebook, have proven their worth. Ladha says that PelotonU will definitely explore ways to incorporate more video into their marketing mix.
Another challenge for online schools is deciding what to show in their student recruitment videos. With no campus to showcase, and with students studying whenever and wherever they can, how do you convey the student experience?
University of Phoenix found a way in their “More Than Brains” video. It acknowledges the real challenges that working adult students face, and it’s set in their world.
Focus On The Message
Both Weary and Mosteller agree that a clear, well-crafted message is the key to creating video marketing campaigns that succeed in enrolling potential students.
“The biggest advice is just make sure it’s tailored to your audiences,” Mosteller said. “You can produce a really great video but if your message is off or if it’s not at the right place at the right time, you’re not going to get the engagement that you’d want.”
Johnna encourages schools to know what differentiates them. Too many colleges focus on the same few talking points: convenience, world-class faculty, responsive teachers. Before you make student recruitment videos, sit down and figure out what really sets your school apart.
From there, you can start building a video library or even just a single video that conveys your message clearly. Of course, some schools may not have the internal resources to make that vision a reality.
“If a school can work with a company from a central place where they have very clearly defined goals about what kinds of video they need and they seek feedback from the different units who might use that video, that can make a lot of sense,” Weary said.
More than anything, video represents an opportunity for institutions of higher education. Done well, student recruitment videos can quickly differentiate your school, support your branding, and intrigue students.
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