It’s Not Always About Enrollment

by Jaclyn Y. Garver
Ivy Tech Community College Northeast
Fort Wayne, IN

NCMPR members who have attended a district or national conference have likely had the opportunity to hear Pam Cox-Otto speak. She co-founded Interact Communications, and she often talks about how we can do our jobs better by looking at the barriers keeping us from that goal – tight budgets, academic areas that don’t get marketing, our resistance to trying new things.

One of her ideas has always struck me as particularly helpful: nontransactional marketing – in part because it’s so dang easy to implement. Nontransactional marketing is simply contacting our students just to offer support – not to ask them for money, to enroll or remind them about a deadline.

The idea is, how can we hope to build relationships with our students when we’re always playing mom and dad? “FAFSA is due – have you filed yet?” “Fall enrollment is underway – don’t miss out!” “Mark your calendars for enrollment day!”

While those emails will never go away, there’s something to be said for adding “We got your back” emails to your plan. My goal? I try to send two “happy emails” per month.

Here’s a few topics I’ve covered:

1.  Welcome to college! At the beginning of the 16-week semester, we thank students for taking this time for THEM. We acknowledge that we know there are other places they could be, other things they could be doing, but they’re choosing to better THEMSELVES. This is the same email where we spell out all our services: the library, tutoring, bus information. We do NOT mention enrollment or payment or financial aid.

2.  Have you checked out Green Light? Green Light is our campus blog, and posts are specifically for students. We’ve solicited students for information like “What are you doing for spring break?” and “It’s Thanksgiving; what are you thankful for?” We give stress tips the week before finals, share photos of the campus in spring or under piles of snow, and let students who travel on school-related trips share what they learned. Students are encouraged to subscribe to the blog. A few times a semester we send students post links. It’s something fun and interesting to read that isn’t about job stats or workforce need.

3.  You’re halfway there! At the halfway point in the semester, we send out some more encouragement. A full semester can seem daunting in August or January, but two months later, it all suddenly becomes doable. We like to remind students of that.

4.  A reminder about XYZ. Our therapeutic massage program runs a massage clinic, and students get hour-long, full-body massages for $20. Our hospitality program runs a weekly deli for lunch and, during the spring semester, a weekly international cuisine dinner. So many students come to campus for classes and leave after. This is the kind of stuff that makes them say, “Hey, maybe I should stick around? We’re doing some amazing things.”

We love to get students involved with our blog, often asking them to answer a timely question and share a selfie.

What sorts of nontransactional marketing do you send to your students?

Jaclyn Y. Garver is the media relations and communications coordinator for the Northeast campus of Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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