The importance of multi-channel communication in undergraduate recruitment
In this episode:
You’ll hear from Kylie Hall who is the Assistant Director of Admissions Communications at Georgia Southern University, a large public institution with three campuses in Georgia.
We talk about:
How Georgia Southern has grown enrollment during the pandemic by utilizing surveying in the yield process
Her view on collaboration between peers in higher ed
A multi-channel approach to communication with prospective students
[00:00:00] Host: You're listening to filling seats, the state of enrollment, marketing, and higher ed. Hosted by StudentBridge In this podcast. You'll learn, what's working to grow shape and sustain enrollment. At colleges and universities directly for marketers thought leaders and ed tech innovators, because anyone can design a brochure, but not anyone can fill seats.
[00:00:27] Host: Welcome to episode two of filling seats. In this episode, you'll hear from Kylie hall, who was the assistant director of admission communication at Georgia Southern university, a large public institution with three campuses in Georgia. Kylie and I discuss how Georgia Southern has grown enrollment during the pandemic by utilizing surveying in the yield process.
[00:00:53] Host: Her view on collaboration between peers and higher ed and a multi-channel approach to communication with prospective students. Let's meet kylie
[00:01:03] Kylie Hall: I actually work at my Alma mater, I did not intend to be in higher education, I have found, a lot of people say that a lot of us didn't actually mean to end up in higher ed. so my educational background is actually in psychology. I have a bachelor's degree, in psychology, and then I actually have my master's degree in school psychology.
[00:01:25] I am not currently a practicing school psychologist. but that was where my academic interests were and I actually. worked as a graduate assistant in the office of admissions during my graduate studies and I ended up loving admissions. I worked mostly on the marketing and communication sides of things.
[00:01:46] Kylie Hall: And, I found it was just a great way for me to get interaction with students and also be able to use my skills creatively. I like having. a creative role and so it provided me the best of both worlds. I get to work with data, which I love. I get to do creative things. I get to talk to students all the time.
[00:02:06] so I'm currently the assistant director of admissions communications at Georgia Southern university, so I'm based in the office of admissions.
[00:02:15] I work very closely with all our different admissions teams and I also work closely with our university communications and marketing, which is the larger marketing office, at our university.
[00:02:26] how long have you been in your role and how long have you been at Georgia Southern?
[00:02:30] Kylie Hall: I, started at Georgia Southern in 2015, as a communications coordinator, and I moved into this role, two years ago. Tell me a little bit about Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern is a large public institution. We're part of the university system of Georgia, which is our state institution. And our story's a little bit unique. in 2017, the university system decided to consolidate Armstrong, state, university and Georgia Southern university.
[00:02:59] now we have three campuses. our largest is in Statesboro. So that's where I spend most of my time on our Statesboro campus. we have over 20,000 students on that campus. Our next largest campus is the Armstrong campus into Savannah. So it is quite a bit smaller. We have about 5,000 students there.
[00:03:20] And then we also have a small, campus in Hinesville, Georgia. it is a non-residential campus.
[00:03:26] Kylie Hall: It has about 500 students and it serves mostly the local community, but also the military community at Fort Stewart, because that's only a few miles away. We have quite a diverse campus, environmentwhich is nice because students really get their choice of where they want to live and how many classmates they want to have.
[00:03:45] so that definitely helps, when we're marketing to students, because we've really have something for everyone.
[00:03:51] what are some recent marketing wins that your school has had ?
[00:03:55] we actually enrolled our largest freshman class ever this past fall, so that's a huge win for everyone on campus. as much as admissions would love to take all the credit, everyone played a huge role in that. we have really made yield communications, a focus of our efforts over the last year. So,making sure that once a student is admitted to Georgia Southern, that they feel like they're part of the community, that they have a chance to ask us all their questions. and so really getting the information that they need to them in multiple ways.
[00:04:30] Kylie Hall: And so I think that's been. a big part of it is just multimodal communication. So making sure they're getting their mail, they're getting things by text message. They're seeing it on social media, they're getting the emails because we know students are not always reading their email. They're not always even checking their mail that may be going straight to the parents and the students aren't even reading it.
[00:04:53] Kylie Hall: So really trying to hit students from every single, communication method and having just lots of touch points. we really tried to beef up our text message communications over the last year. And talking to our counselors and seeing where are the things that just don't seem to be getting through to students.
[00:05:14] Kylie Hall: What are the things we need to focus more on and then utilizing that, to make sure they weren't getting those messages. And basically just doing frequent surveying of these students to say, Hey, are you still planning on attending Georgia Southern? And then what do you need from us to make sure that you can enroll? And so we saw 78% of those students.
[00:05:34] Kylie Hall: Respond to that survey, whether it was, yes, I'm definitely coming. Or we did have some, not a huge number, but there were some who said, actually I'm not coming anymore, but that was good. That's actually what we wanted And then we use that to follow up with them, and make sure that yes, they did show up that first day of class. so it was really a group effort for.
[00:05:54] Kylie Hall: Our marketing team, but also our counselors. They did a lot of personalized outreach when we gave them that data. We said these students aren't really sure. they were able to reach out and do some personal followup to those students to make sure that yes, they would be attending in the fall. mentioned earlier that you love data have you had any discoveries in the data that have informed marketing initiatives or, these major aha moments, the last two years we actually have. Require test scores. That was a university system initiative. And then this year we were told we have to require test scores.
[00:06:31] Kylie Hall: And so we're still seeing a lot of students who, just don't have scores either. Aren't happy with their scores. And so haven't sent them or they haven't taken the tests yet. And that's something we've been looking at really closely is okay. How many applicants do we have? How many are sitting out there without test scores?
[00:06:48] Kylie Hall: And what can we do to reach these students? can we send them a text message with a survey that just says, Hey, have you actually taken the test yet? And then get them information that way. we actually realized this is kind of sad, but I hadn't done an application in quite a while.
[00:07:06] that's not something that I typically spend my time doing, but for some reason I decided to complete an application. I realized, Hey, we actually ask on our application. If students. have taken the test or not. So it actually says, have you taken sat or act like this is data we have, why aren't we using this?
[00:07:27] Kylie Hall: This is such a big issue right now. We need to be using this data. So I think always trying to find things that exist and maybe you just aren't even using, because there's always going to be data points that we have and just making.
[00:07:39] Kylie Hall: Overlook or didn't realize existed. what do you feel that your team currently struggles with in terms of market?
[00:07:47] it always feels like there aren't enough hours in the day and we always have way too many ideas than we can actually implement. I'm a two person team. and you know,We handle things besides just the marketing, we're talking to students, we're taking phone calls as well.
[00:08:02] it almost feels like sometimes there's more ideas in my head than I can actually implement, which is a struggle. So, you know, if I had four more extra people that I could just give all my ideas to and they could do them, that would be awesome. So, how do you decide what you're going to do?
[00:08:18] Kylie Hall: I talk to my colleagues and say, all right, what's our focus. What is your priority right now? What do you need the most help with right now? that's one of the ways we prioritize projects is really finding the pain points and then seeing, all right, what can we do to help this pain point? so like right now it's a really high volume time for us.
[00:08:38] What can we do to help clarify the timeline for students? Because we're getting to winter break where things might slow down a little bit and just, how can we make sure that we're meeting students where they are, and really answering their most pressing questions in many ways as possible.
[00:08:55] Kylie Hall: So what can we get up on social? Do we need to film a video and get that on YouTube? does this require a text message? it, it takes a lot of collaboration. I'm very lucky. I have a wonderful communications coordinator who, she's also full of ideas. So sometimes we have to reign each other in, but just dividing and conquering and trying to get as much done as possible.
[00:09:19] Kylie Hall: And then there's always the struggle of. How much is enough? How much is not enough? making sure we know it's going to take multiple touch points for students to understand the message. making sure we are getting the message across enough, but not overdoing it. trying to find that balance is always a challenge.
[00:09:38] Host: So it seems that you subscribe to the belief that students receive messages on a variety of channels and need to receive it a number of times And that they also seek out information from a variety of places. I also subscribe to that belief for my time , in the admissions world. Sometimes, working with colleagues, there, was this thought of of like, we got four phone calls today about this one thing we need to put it on the website so that, students know not to call us anymore.
[00:10:10] Host: And so I'm just curious, how did you come to knowing this to be your truth. And how do you work with colleagues when they have this one track, mind?
[00:10:21] we've had days where somebody is like, I've had 20 phone calls about this today. And I said, okay, have you really had 20 phone calls start tracking it for me? give me the data. And when I have the data. I'll start figuring out a solution for you, but I would like some data behind this.
[00:10:36] Kylie Hall: And then when they actually start tracking the calls, they realized they might've been exaggerating a little bit. That has happened. I try to stay plugged in to. The students as much as possible, I don't necessarily manage our social media as much anymore, but trying to stay on top of messages that come in, seeing what they say.
[00:10:55] we have what we call counselor on call in the office. So that is, the person who phone calls are routed to. when the student's assigned counselors and available, just doing one a week or,trying to get on the phone as much as possible, or just going down to.
[00:11:11] Kylie Hall: The lobby and hearing students' questions, but staying on top of what students are asking. I think helps a lot, we use a text messaging platform called mainstay. And so it's actually an AI chat bot, but we are able to see the messages that students are sending. And that gives me a great idea of, okay, this is an issue right now.
[00:11:33] this is a common question right now, so really trying to keep an ear on the ground here, what the counselors are saying. I think that's really one of the best ways to know what are the issues right now, because you will start to pick up on common themes. And those are the things that we say, all right, how can we provide a solution to this issue?
[00:11:53] Kylie Hall: If we start hearing that over and over.
[00:11:55] thinking a little more big picture about enrollment marketing. What do you believe are some of the biggest misconceptions? people think of us as the keeper of all. Enrollment things. So they think we have an answer for all things, enrollment, whether that's financial aid or paying a bill.
[00:12:16] Kylie Hall: And frequently on social media and we get phone calls and emails and things, just with every single enrollment question. And sometimes we have to rein people in and say,This really isn't something that's going to help a student get enrolled.
[00:12:30] Kylie Hall: So that may not be the best place for us to intervene. as far as our larger, marketing and communications office, I think. We find that we often have to educate them on enrollment, marketing trends. That's not necessarily something that they're familiar with, especially if they're not from a higher ed background.
[00:12:50] Kylie Hall: So even just explaining the difference between an applicant and a prospect and an inquiry, sometimes we really have to go back to the basics and do An admissions 1 0 1 with them and help them. What's the difference between a freshman and a transfer student and how might we need to communicate with those students differently?
[00:13:09] part of our job is to make sure that they know those things. And so we are the experts on that. And we try to do that with as much grace as possible, but, it is, it's an interesting position because you're between the marketing and between the admissions. and so we get a lot of questions about both.
[00:13:25] Kylie Hall: What is your relationship like with central marketing and who takes the lead on different initiatives? We have a very collaborative relationship with our central marketing office. I talk to them sometimes daily, And then we meet every week, my director and I meet with them, just to go over everything that's happening, but they handle all of our, digital media.
[00:13:51] Kylie Hall: So any sort of ad buys, ad campaigns, they manage all of that. So we typically help with strategy on that. like I mentioned before, if this is geared towards a transfer and adult learner, how can we help. Make that message, fit them better. So we'll help with that sort of thing. But they do really the logistical side of that.
[00:14:11] right now this is a little bit different than it's been in the past, but our graphic designer is actually in university communications and marketing. So we Do you have to route some of our projects through them, especially our large-scale publications. So like our except book and, any new publications we're doing usually, we work with them, but it is a collaborative relationship, which is nice.
[00:14:33] we help them with the strategy side of things and then they, they do the actual design portion of it. As far as email goes, typically we manage that in house. we manage our CRM on our own, so they will help with some graphics and some strategy things, but, overall we manage that and then we do have some admission, social media accounts and then the main university or counselor are in their office.
[00:14:58] we try to work together on that really. if there's something important that we are sharing or they're sharing, we let each other know and then,we share as needed, but we have a great relationship with them and we learned a lot from each other, I think.
[00:15:11] Kylie Hall: So it is nice to have that good working relationship and we've moved away from, just. Straight projects to trying to have a more strategic relationship as well, which is great.
[00:15:23] what are some things that you think other higher ed marketers at other schools are not doing a great job with.
[00:15:30] I think for all of us, there's a lot more we could probably be doing with,personalization and doing more specific messaging to specific groups. I think just speaking to my colleagues, a lot of us, there's just not enough hours in the day. There are a lot of things we would love to do and that we know we could do,
[00:15:50] Kylie Hall: we just are understaffed, have so much else going on or, wearing a lot of different hats in the admissions office. It makes it a little challenging. In an ideal world, if you had the time and the people, what would be some of the segments and, personalized groups that you would want to communicate.
[00:16:11] In an ideal world, our acceptbook would have, each student's name on it, it would have a section with specific information about their major. there's so many things that, would be amazing to do if we had the technology and the time and the resources. even stuff like I know a lot of schools do.
[00:16:28] Kylie Hall: And this is not that hard, it's just not something we've been able to do, but like postcards,with the student's name as part of the creative, like that sort of thing, we would love to do, I just, either. We haven't done it. We haven't had the technology to do it or the time and the patience to try to find a way to do it, frankly.
[00:16:49] a challenge just in general is that we all get stuck in our ways, which is not especially inthis field, but,sometimes you do have to tap people on the shoulder and say, Hey, there's a better way to do this. we've done the same mailing for five years.
[00:17:03] Kylie Hall: Can we think about doing something else? and so you have to find those places where you can get your new ideas through the door.
[00:17:09] Host: What do you see for the future of higher ed market?
[00:17:13] Kylie Hall: I definitely think technology is going to play a huge role. students expect, things instantaneously. They expect to be able to have the information they want at their fingertips. They're definitely going to expect more personalization. even just in the search process, they're used to getting ads on their phone after they search for a specific shirt, they're going to have an ad on their phone for it.
[00:17:35] Kylie Hall: So I think things like that affect how we view everything else that we're looking for on the web. and so I know that's something that our marketing team has looked at is How can we do some digital marketing in a way that's not invasive, but keeps us at top of mind for this student.
[00:17:54] what sort of content are they enjoying? We know Tik Tok right now is where a lot of our, especially our high school students are, but do they really want to see colleges on their Tik TOK, especially a college add on their tech talks. So I think especially as that medium evolves, we're going to have a lot more data.
[00:18:15] Kylie Hall: That's actually something we've been experimenting with this year. As far as the Tik TOK ad space seeing, is this something students are responding to, or is this something that kind of annoys them to have in their feed? that's going to be interesting to see over the next year or two as that continues to evolve is how they respond to that.
[00:18:37] Host: Have you seen any schools effectively utilizing like a social media influencer for recruitment purposes? someone who has an account whose specific purpose is to create content about the school that.
[00:18:52] Host: they go to to recruit other students to be interested in that school? have you seen.
[00:18:57] Kylie Hall: I've seen a few schools utilize a model, kind of like that, where they either have.social media ambassadors and that's their entire job on social media is to create content about the school. something we've actually found, is that. there are students who are not affiliated with the school who might not even be students at the school, creating content.
[00:19:21] Kylie Hall: That's actually getting quite a bit of traction online. And so that's something,Even if it's not something that is university sanction, just to be aware of, go on YouTube and search for your school because the top videos probably aren't going to be your university channels, videos are probably going to be a random student making content.
[00:19:44] so I do think it has been official when you have, ambassadors or influencers Who you know, are reliable. Not that you're feeding them the content you want the content to be as, as candid as possible. because there may be some other things out there that you wouldn't necessarily want to push students out to in your marketing materials.
[00:20:05] Kylie Hall: But if you have those students, you can rely on that can be a huge benefit.
[00:20:10] what is an app or marketing tool that you could not live with that?
[00:20:14] they're actually a ton of great Facebook groups. that I'm a part of. So higher ed social's one, it's a great resource. Especially for social media, but also for a lot of marketing and communications content. they just started a new version of that group that is specifically for marketing and communication.
[00:20:33] there's one called marketing and communications women of Atlanta that I'm a part of. I have found that some of these groups, it's a great way to make connections with people. It's a great place to ask questions, with no pressure and just say, Hey, I know you guys are, in similar situations, what would you do in this situation?
[00:20:52] so I found those to be really helpful. Sometimes if I have a random question, that's the first place I'll go to , try to find an answer. if it's not something I can find somewhere else. It's also a good place to commiserate with people who do things similar to you. as far as admissions wise, Mainstay, which is our texting platform, is an excellent product that we really enjoy using and it's great to be able to text students, but since it has that AI chatbot component, we don't necessarily have to respond back to every message, which is really excellent, especially, when you're strapped for staff in your office.
[00:21:29] and then,
[00:21:29] student bridge as well has been a great partner. we actually utilize student bridge not only for our virtual campus experience, but, the past two years we've actually used a platform specifically for our accepted students. it allowed us to provide all the information a student needs to enroll to provide it in a concise way, in quick video content. that has also been a great resource for us. especially since, one of our challenges and goals has been,
[00:21:58] Host: If you could go back five or 10 years and give yourself advice. What would it be?
[00:22:03] put yourself out there more, don't doubt your expertise, you know, a lot more than you think, you know?and don't doubt yourself, is one of the biggest things sometimes. especially when you're just starting out in your career, you don't realize what you know, and a lot of times it's a lot more than you think
[00:22:23] Host: If you could change anything about higher ed marketing or enrollment marketing, what would it be in.
[00:22:30] this business it's an expensive business. I think that's one of the challenges. we all love our software. We all love our different products and it can get really pricey. and a lot of times it's keeping up with the Jones'.
[00:22:44] this school has this product, so now we need to get that product. It's not always necessarily something you need to be successful. And trying to avoid that comparison can be hard. but a lot of times you can really make, do with what you have.
[00:23:00] Kylie Hall: You're also going to be bombarded with lots and lots of emails from lots of different vendors. And so figuring out, what do I actually need? And then what can I make do with until I have the funds for whatever the next great product is?
[00:23:17] Host: thank you for listening to the filling seats podcast, hosted by student bridge. If you'd like to connect with this episode's guest. Check out the show notes. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a rating and review and don't forget to subscribe. For more information about the podcast or to let us know, you'd like to be a guest.
[00:23:37] Host: Visit student bridge.com/podcast. Thanks for listening.