3 Takeaways from the Higher Ed Web Conference

Trust, Engagement, Authenticity

Trust and engagement.

Sitting in the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, I heard it again — our audience needs authenticity to build trust and to provoke engagement.

In an age when Gen Z is skeptical of the value of education, we have to go back to the basics and ask ourselves — what are we trying to do? How do we even define engagement?

If we look to the data, a recent study found 64% of 48,000 students who responded said they feel very lonely.

If students are feeling this way, what responsibility do we as communicators have to this? Should we be focusing on creating and nurturing the communities we have? Or should we aim to increase engagement efforts and reaching additional populations.

These are tough questions that have no concrete answer. If we do want to rethink our engagement, it will require us going back to square one and answering the basic questions all over again:

  • What does engagement mean for our university? What about your department?
  • How should engagement be measured? Should it be treated like a KPI or should it be the goal itself?
  • How we can turn community into the product?
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It begins with three steps:

The first is understanding what we’re after. Tap into your audience to capture group knowledge.

Then dig into the community. What are the needs? How does the community feel about change? Where is your community bonding versus bridging?

Lastly, we have to understand our role. Whether we are administrators, cheerleaders, archivists, coordinators, etc. we have to find ways to nurture supply and demand.

Nurturing supply makes joining, forming and changing easy — allowing them to be small and promoting those groups.

Nurturing demand features community stories, offers support and recognition and paves the way for communities to influence.

2. Inclusive Content Strategy

As we continue to enhance our digital profiles, keep accessibility in mind.

Inclusivity and accessibility shouldn’t stop at your physical environment

When assessing your content for accessibility, see if you meet these four needs:

  • Visual needs
  • Motor needs
  • Auditory needs
  • Cognitive needs

#LumberjackTip It can be helpful to run your content through a readability app to ensure your content is still understandable when aids are used.

NAU Social continues to strive toward our goal of hosting inclusive and accessible social media accounts for all of our followers.

As technology changes, so too does accessibility needs. We recently went through an audit of our own accounts and . Just 5 minutes can make a huge difference in how your posts can be viewed.

3. Higher Education Marketing Trends

Higher ed’s cost has risen 400% since the 80s.

Our target demographic has become more price conscious and the perceived benefits of a college education has withered.

How do we combat this? Communicating our value and outcomes regularly.

It’s just as important to listen to our audience as it is to communicate with them. Deeply listen and observe how they’re speaking, how they take in information and how they process it. This will all help to strengthen communication and outreach efforts and make sure messages are being delivered in a way that resonates.

What can we do in our daily roles?

Create a digital first strategy (Print isn’t going away but digital is key)

Use social media as a platform to share success stories and feature active members of the community. Get to know your audience and give them the opportunity to make connections with each other.

Build trust — be authentic — engage meaningfully

Our prospective students are part of Gen Z and as a group, they are pragmatic, money conscious, independent and multicultural.

They are global. They are “side hustlers” and they will reject anything overly polished.

With a million different things grabbing for their attention, it is more important than ever to make sure your content is eye catching and relevant.

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