Five Strategies for Enrollment Marketers During COVID-19
Five Strategies for Enrollment Marketers During COVID-19


Five Strategies for Enrollment Marketers During COVID-19

Apr 20, 2020By Travis Koury

Earlier this month, mStoner assembled a panel of five higher education experts to discuss enrollment marketing strategies and tactics that four-year institutions are implementing during these times of social distancing.

Higher education institutions are among those businesses most disrupted by COVID-19. It’s easy to be consumed by the many sobering questions the pandemic has prompted: Will the students come back after things return to normal? Will COVID-19 affect where students will enroll? How will this change college admissions?

Meet the Experts


Deborah Maue, vice president for marketing and communications, Aurora University




Courtney Minden, vice president of enrollment management, Babson College




Aimee Patton, director of digital marketing, Park University




Gil Rogers, executive vice president, PlatformQ Education




Voltaire Santos Miran, chief executive officer and head of client experience, mStoner, Inc.



Here are the five top takeaways from our panelists. We hope that you can share these strategies and tactics with your enrollment marketing team.

1. Go Back to the Basics of Communication

Deborah Maue reminded us that this is the perfect time to make your messaging and communications simple and concise.

Insights from Deborah

People may have a lot of time on their hands right now, but they’re still tired. They’re still stressed. And they’re not able to take in a lot of communication.

Don’t use unnecessarily big words when small words will do. Talk like a human.

People have a limited capacity to take in and retain information right now. Don’t be afraid to say things more than once for people to get it.

What are some of the most important things for a college or university to communicate right now?

Think about this in three phases:
1. There’s still the need to communicate what’s happening right now for both current students and prospective students.
2. Institutions also need to talk about the fall and make sure that you’re doing the right activities to bring in the new class and ensure that your current students are re-registering for the fall.
3. Don’t forget about the long term — there will be a new normal — and people will return to campus again. We’re trying to strike a balance between those three time frames and incorporate those longer-term messages.

2. Empathize with Your Audience

Insights from Voltaire

Communicate from a tone of empathy for all of your audiences. That means wrapping your heart and mind around what’s going through their heart and mind.

Find moments of joy to celebrate as a community. Any good news that we’re able to share with our community, campuses, or organizations is going to be a rallying point.


Will prospective students see enrollment marketing as opportunistic during this time?

I think it all goes into what kind of marketing language you use. Obviously, hard sells aren’t going to work right now. We need to be sure we’re addressing the needs of the community.



How can enrollment marketers create messages that are thoughtful and also reach this audience where they are?

Take a step back. Plan your content. Ask: What are the best distribution channels for this content? The answer might be all of them, it might be one of them, or somewhere in between.



There’s a balance between continuing to provide information that people need to have and creating community through audience engagement.




I think we have to remember what hasn’t changed about student expectations and the student experience. Prospective students are looking for a sense of community. They’re looking for students who they’ll be able to relate to. They look for faculty who are going to challenge them. When they contact a financial aid person, they want to have an actual conversation and get to know them and engage them.


3. Have a Plan. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Aimee Patton encourages all of us to have a plan. It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate, but your team should be working together toward something.

Insights from Aimee

I have a list of about 30 things that my team could get done. But we are only focusing on one or two at a time. Once those one or two things come off, we update the list and tackle the next.



Are there any specific changes to your institution’s website or how you’re approaching web strategy based on the impact of COVID-19?

We put up a COVID-19 web page and made sure we had a process for how we get approved content for that page. We didn’t want a mishmash of all sorts of information from all over the place. We wanted to make sure that the right communication was going up and was approved by the president and executive leadership before we put any information up on that page.

We’re adding lots of language around our online learning offerings to specific academic and admissions pages so people know about our online learning. We want to be strategic from an SEO perspective and also provide users with some information that we do offer online learning.


There are four areas to focus on:

1. Making updates to the website around COVID-19
We have to realize that people are looking to our websites for information now more than ever. So publishing new, updated information as it is available becomes all the more important — everything from COVID-19 updates to extensions on deadlines. I think Brandeis University is an incredible example of an institution that has changed or has shaped the homepage around the need for more communication.

2. Improving transfer student pages
I think we’re going to see more and more vertical transfers, horizontal transfers, and reverse transfers happening as people want to stay closer to home. Most sites have really, really bad transfer pages. And the burden of the transfer is put on the student themself. So upping the transfer page game and making those pages better, stronger, easier to use is important.

3. Showing virtual community
Wilkes University just took their virtual accepted student experience live, and it’s brilliant. It pulls together clips from students and snippets of faculty members who’ve recorded short videos from their home during this time. They’ve done a really wonderful job. So if you want to see a great virtual accepted-students experience, check out Wilkes.

4. Communicating to parents and students around key decision drivers
People are looking for flexibility. They’re looking for programs that will help people whose financial positions might change drastically in a short time. They’re now looking for quality of instruction, particularly online. And in the cases of smaller institutions, they’re looking for information on long-term viability: Is this institution of higher ed going to be around in three years based on what’s happening?

4. Your Campus Is Not Your Buildings. Your Campus Is Your People

Gil Rogers can always be counted on for a tweetable quote. He believes that your campus is more than a physical space, it’s the people that make it up. And campuses can live on in a virtual space, as long as we foster community.

Insights from Gil

Gil Rogers can always be counted on for a tweetable quote. He believes that your campus is more than a physical space, it’s the people that make it up. And campuses can live on in a virtual space, as long as we foster community.



If I have $20,000 to spend right now, what should I do with the budget to deliver the biggest ROI for my upcoming enrollment?

Anything interactive that helps to create a sense of community where you can showcase people.




If you’re going to invest in media during this time, make sure it showcases the people.



5. Ask for Help. Demand Help. It Takes a Village.

Courtney Minden believes that everyone at your institution has something to contribute. And now is the time to branch out and ask those people for help.

Insights from Courtney

This is not a challenge the marketing and enrollment managers should bear alone. I think every single person on our campus can contribute in some way. Somebody from HR might say, “I’m not student-facing; I don’t know how it would be useful.” But a wave and welcome that we could stitch together in a video would enable us to express our humanity.



What strategies and tactics do institutions use in order to actually get students and families into these virtual events?

You can use email and texting to drive students to your virtual content. Make sure your content is easily accessible! Do they have to download an app? Do they have to download a plug-in on their web browser to be able to engage with that content? Or is it browser-based? These are all considerations when thinking of putting up a virtual event.


My first call was to Gil to say, “Help me do this. Let’s think of any kind of crazy piece of technology or outreach that we haven’t thought of before. This is our time to be creative.”



Want to Hear More?

Access the hourlong panel discussion

Our next interactive panel, focusing on community college and transfer students, airs on April 23.

Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for more announcements on our enrollment marketing panel series.

  • Travis Koury Marketing Specialist As marketing specialist, Travis Koury shares mStoner’s thought leadership and service offerings across a multitude of channels. He thoughtfully applies digital marketing best practices to ensure higher education marketing and communication professionals can easily discover and access mStoner’s helpful resources, primary research, and on-demand content.