Simple to Complex: A Spectrum of Communication Plan Solutions


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Join Hobsons University presenters, Alexis and Jaclyn, as they provide solutions for successful implementation of communication plans.

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  • Alexis Pope--Jaclyn Schmidt-Undergraduate Admissions Office-Coordinator of Marketing and Communications-Graduated from UWSP in 2007, pursuing a Masters in Counselor Education expected December 2012-Third time at Hobsons U.-Managing the undergrad instance of Connect for almost 4 years.
  • located in Cookeville, TN11,768 (9,920 UG, 93% TN, 8% minority)40 bachelor’s, 23 graduate programsNCAA Division IMaster’s ComprehensiveTagline: “Unleash Your Awesomeness”
  • -Located in Southeast Georgia about an hour from the coast – near Savannah-Current enrollment: 20,000+; 18,000 undergrads; 30% minority-State public school founded in 1906 granting Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees-114 programs of study under 8 academic colleges-Georgia’s large-scale, small-feel research university-Carnegie doctoral research institution-NCAA Division I athletics in 14 sports
  • Audience (Who are you communicating with?)Type (undergraduate, graduate, out-of-state, in-state, freshman, transfer, adult, traditional, minority, high-achieving, at-risk, athletes) does your institution focus on increasing a specific population? adult students will typically require more hand-holding, they’ve waited this long for a reason freshman want to be amazed, high-achieving students want to hear about scholarshipsOrigin (bought name, college fair, campus visit, web inquiry, vendor inquiry, application) don’t invest a lot in purchased names until they are inquiries (emails) invest a bit more in college fair names (phone calls), more in campus visits (phone calls, mailings), most in applicants (phone calls, mailings) Timing (years in advance, 2 years out, one year out, last minute) low-ability students look later than high ability students traditional freshman typically start in the fall, adult/transfers each semester really young students may not respond well to email
  • Goals/IntentionsWhat is each message (or each plan) meant to say or accomplish? Campus event, campus visit, web site, online chat, college fair, application, housing deposit, enrollment deposit, etc.Measuring and tracking whether or not goals are met (how many people are reading the messages? Are they taking the action you want them to take?)
  • Having concrete goals and being aware of the intentions you have for your communications will help give your plan a good foundation. After clarifying those items, you’ve hopefully answered the “Why?” question. Next, you’ll want to build onto that foundation and answer the “How?” question. This will involve building a strategy and steps to reach your goals.-Decide whether you wish to be reactive or proactive. Will your plan primarily include communications that are triggered by an action the student takes, or will your communications trigger the student to take action? Example: “Thanks for your application; please send us your transcript” vs. “Now is a great time to apply for admission.” Maybe this will vary depending on the populations. For example, maybe you need to be more proactive with purchased names, vs. more reactive with stealth applicants. Can you answer their next question before they ask it?-Consider branding your communications. Use your school’s colors, tagline, brand, etc. right away so that your prospective students become aware of it and recognize it. Repetition of branding can help students recognize you and help you stand out! This doesn’t just mean images and colors – think about branding your language, too. Are there words that you want prospects to recognize as uniquely your school?-Even if you are using a simple approach, try to be as specific as possible in the messages you send. Use the data you have in Connect to help you! Is your message meant to encourage students to complete an application? Make sure you exclude those who already have! Have some students started the application, but not completed it? Send them a different message than those who haven’t started yet!-Be sure your messages are consistent and fit together in a coherent way to avoid confusion. Make sure deadlines are always the same, make sure instructions given are accurate and consistent, make sure the order of messages makes sense. More or less, just think about it from the students’ point of view. If you were new to the college experience and you got these messages in this order, would it make sense to you? Consistency builds trust in your institution. It creates a professional image of your school and tells students these people know what they’re doing.-Does anyone else have any good strategy-type suggestions that might be helpful?You know who your “best fit” students are. Trust what you know when building your strategy. And keep in mind that if your initial strategy seems ineffective, it’s ok to change it and try something different next year!
  • Once you’ve answered your “why” and “how” questions, it will be important to answer the “who” question too – and this time I don’t mean “who is your audience,” but rather “who will do all of this behind-the-scenes work?” This will depend a little bit on how your office is set up. Some of you may have a primary Connect manager who is kind of the go-to person for all things Connect. Some of you may have several people who are “expert” users and who know a lot about communication plans.-First, will one person “own” the communication plan, or will there be many people involved? By this I mean who will draft the communications? Who will be responsible for writing the filters? Who will queue the communications? Are there possible “owners” from other campus departments who may have a stake in your communications?-What kind of time commitment will be required of the owners and/or managers of the plan/plans? This may be hard to know if you’re new to Connect or if you’re growing your plans significantly. Often comm plans require more work up front to get them running, and then less to maintain them later.-Regardless of the number of plans you have, organization will be very important. Use a flow chart to help you keep track of all of the communications within a plan. This is also a great tool to provide to a supervisor or administrator who wants to know what communications students are receiving, without needing all the small details. It’s also a good quick reference if there are multiple owners/collaborators on one plan.-Timing is an important consideration too, and flow charts can help keep that organized as well. Send the communications with enough time for the student to complete what you’re asking them to do, but not so much time that they ignore/forget about it. This might depend on the population you are communicating with as well. At our school, we know that high-ability, scholarship-eligible prospects tend to apply for admission earlier than others. I may need to send them information about how to apply sooner than I send it to others.-One word of advice – keep your email templates and your filters well-organized! Maybe try to design a naming convention for everything you save. Those of you who have been using Connect for several years know what I’m talking about, I bet. Once you’ve got 5,000+ filters and 2,000+ emails, they are hard to find again! If you keep everything clean and well-organized from the start, you’ll thank yourself later.
  • Option 1:  Simple, Clean, One-Plan Approach with a Personal Touch audience is individualized via content blocks (freshman, transfer, out-of-state) goals are largely limited to those that apply to all students (visit campus, apply, enroll) many sources are treated the same (ACT, online vendors, campus visits, SIS) communication is largely timed to the main target population (traditional freshman) heavily reactive (thank you, next steps, relevant deadlines/events) limited proactive communication more specific to student type
  • proslight on resources (one staff, one hour/day)very easy to see logic from beginning to end (limited number of communication points) therefore easy to train/incorporate office/campus on methodsthe few goals/action steps are often well enforced (student not inundated)quick to implement, painless to monitorconsnot friendly to more diverse populationstypes of studentstime of entry to admissions funneldoes not support multiple goals/agendascampus eventsseveral programs/majors
  • -At Georgia Southern, I’m the primary manager for all communication plans. Currently, we have 22 separate plans. This means that I have others who “own” the plans. In other words, they write the content and tell me about their student population and what timing is appropriate for their students. We meet together to draft the plan and get it settled so that the owner feels comfortable with it. I then put the messages into Connect, write the filters, and queue them. If the owner asks for data about the success of the plan, I also pull results for him/her. This is convenient because it allows me to organize my instance of Connect in the way that makes the most sense to me. It also ensures that everything is consistent and cohesive, as I am aware of all communications leaving our office from Connect. It also creates a good traceable history of how plans have grown and developed over time. Every June, I meet with the plan owners to review and make edits to the comm plans.-We tend to take a very proactive approach to our communications. We really make an effort to know our populations and how they typically behave so we can predict and project better the next year. We pull conversion data each year to track students from purchased name to enrolled student. This past year, we even partnered with a third party to create a predictive model so that we can determine which applicants are most likely to enroll. The point of all of this is, at least in part, to be able to anticipate and answer a prospective student’s question before he/she asks it.-There is always room to expand communications. No matter how specific our plans get, they still assume some similarity between members of a population group. As our university grows, as our recruitment goals change, and as the world of higher education evolves, we are set up to prepare and manage new plans. Some that we’ve added recently include plans specific to our online populations. One I am currently in the middle of getting going for fall is a plan for active duty and reserve military, in collaboration with the GoArmyEd program. In the future, I could see us adding a plan specific to non-traditional students or for first-generation college students, for example.
  • There are many benefits to running a complex, 20+ plan model for communications.With such a diverse prospective student population, a big benefit of the multi-plan option is that the messages can be very targeted and individualized. The information can be specific to one population at a given time to ensure its relevancy and appropriateness for the students receiving it.Multiple plans encourage students to proceed through the “recruitment funnel.” Their behavior can be tracked and used to analyze trends in their behavior to help plan and predict the incoming class, to help provide data to higher-ups, to know what changes to make for next year.More and more, higher education is becoming a service-oriented field. Our students (and their parents) expect excellent customer service. Having proactive, targeted communications is part of providing that higher level of quality service. Anticipating needs and responding promptly with accurate, consistent information can contribute significantly to their decision to attend your school.Having multiple plans really creates and allows for Connect to be a centralized location for your campus to communicate with incoming students. I work with other student affairs offices and even academic departments and units to help them draft and send their messages. This is a benefit to them because I can provide them with the tracking data, and it’s a benefit to us in Admissions because we’re now aware of the messages that are going out to prospects and accepts and can ensure consistency.
  • Does it seem too good to be true? Then it probably is. As with any option, there are some cons to running such a complex model.- It will take a lot of focus from your primary manager to implement something like this, and it will likely have to be 60% or more of that person’s job in order to get it running. It will also require cooperation from plan owners and support from others in the office. -It can be problematic to manage the overlap of the plans. At Georgia Southern, an out-of-state, high-ability, minority freshmen might fall into four plans. I have to be careful to ensure that students are not getting multiple communications on the same day, that they are not receiving redundant or duplicate information, and that they are not getting flooded by too many messages. Some of that is done through filtering, some through careful review of the messages themselves.-This is time consuming. Primarily, the time goes in up front, and then it becomes less so. For example, I said I spent a lot of June reviewing plans with owners. And then I will spend most of July and August updating and queuing comm plans. Full time. So it will be 90% of my job for two months. But then, once things are set up and running, thanks to the automated nature of Connect, I can move on to other things. I’ll still need to monitor and create and queue ad hoc emails here and there, but then it can drop to maybe 40 or 50% of my time.The complexity of filters and the sheer number of messages creates more room for human error. One “and” instead of an “or” in a filter line, even if reviewed by multiple sets of eyes, can get overlooked and cause a big problem. Or missing that little “not” in a filter line could be the difference between sending a congratulations email to your denieds instead of your accepts. It’s so important to be cautious and triple-check everything – but even then, errors happen.As we continue to grow and add plans, a new question arises: How many plans is too many? I’m reminded of the short excerpt written by Jorge Luis Borges in 1946 about a group of cartographers who wanted to make maps more and more accurate and detailed, until eventually the map was as large as the world itself, matching it “point for point.” Eventually, will all 4,000 of our incoming freshmen have their very own communication plan? Obviously there’s a line to be drawn somewhere, but that line does seem to be always just a few plans further up the road.-Currently, at Georgia Southern, with the resources we have available, the pros of the complex method far outweigh the cons for us. I recognize this may not be an option for everyone, and its usefulness will vary on the size and mission of each institution.
  • There’s a lot middle ground that exists between the clean simplicity of a single plan and the complexity of 20+ plans.-Generally, I’d say that some communication is better than none. Start from where you are. -Not all options will work for all schools. Institutions vary, as do their missions and their recruitment strategies. You know your school much better than I do. Scrap what you don’t like about this presentation, and take and use what you do like. The majority of schools probably fall somewhere in this middle ground. More than one, less than 20.-It’s ok to grow your plans slowly. Like I said, start from where you are. Maybe you begin by adding one or two new plans each year. When I started at Georgia Southern 3 ½ years ago, I think we had about 10 plans, and they were being managed by the Associate Director, who also had a million other responsibilities. Adding a full-time Connect person allowed us to become better organized and more intentional about our messages, which in turn allowed us to grow significantly, but only by a little bit each year.-Start with determining which populations to target. Which populations are you trying to increase? Which populations have the most questions or need the most information? Be intentional about which plans you grow. Have a reason for focusing on those populations.
  • ConclusionRegardless of the size of your office or the number of staff, Connect can be used to design a communication plan approach that works for you. There are pros and cons to each approach, and many middle options in between. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, it is important to remember the basics.
  • For the introduction, please provide the following information to attendees. Please take no more than 5 minutes on this.Institution stats:Private or publicEnrollment sizeOther relevant numbersYour specific stats:School type (Undergraduate, Graduate, Professional, etc.)Product stats:What products do you useWhich products will be covered in the presentationHow long have you been a Hobsons client and/or used the product(s)
  • Please remember to complete the online evaluation!
  • Simple to Complex: A Spectrum of Communication Plan Solutions

    1. 1. Simple to Complex:A Spectrum of Communication Plan SolutionsAlexis Pope Jaclyn SchmidtTennessee Tech University Georgia Southern University July 17, 2012
    2. 2. Overview• Introductions• Problem – How do we effectively communicate with diverse student prospects?• Solutions – The Basics – Option 1: Simple – Option 2: Complex – Option 3: Intermediate 1
    3. 3. About the Presenters Alexis Pope Director of Admissions Tennessee TechJaclyn Esqueda SchmidtCoordinator of Marketing& CommunicationsGeorgia Southern 2
    4. 4. About Tennessee Tech Unleash Your Awesomeness 3
    5. 5. About Georgia SouthernGeorgia’s large-scale, small-feel research university 4
    6. 6. The BasicsThe Basic Solution• Audience – With whom are you communicating?• Goals/Intentions – What message are you sending?• Strategy – How do you get them to respond? 5
    7. 7. The BasicsAudience• Type – UG/G, FR/T, age, ability, special populations• Origin – purchases, online, visits, applications• Timing – spring, fall, summer, years in advance, late 6
    8. 8. The BasicsGoals/Intentions• message encourages a specific action – campus event/visit, webpage, app, deposit• specific actions are relevant – orientation, advising appointment, etc.• specific actions are measurable – clicked link, signed up, applied, paid 7
    9. 9. The BasicsStrategy• Reactive vs. Proactive• Branded Communications• Specific and Individualized Messages• Consistency and Cohesiveness 8
    10. 10. The BasicsStaff and Resources• One vs. Multiple “Owners”• Time Commitment• Flow Charts• Timing of Communications• Keeping Connect Clean 9
    11. 11. Option 1: SimpleOption 1: Simple Approach• one simple, clean approach – still can offer a personal touch• content blocks separate types• goals are limited to those that apply to all• multiple origins are often treated similarly• timing weighted to main population• often heavily reactive 10
    12. 12. Option 1: SimpleOption 1: Simple Approach cont.• Pros – light on resources (one staff, one hour/day) – easy to grasp totality of communications – few goals are often well-enforced – quick to implement, painless to monitor• Cons – not friendly to more diverse populations – does not support multiple goals/agendas well 11
    13. 13. Option 2: ComplexThe Details• One Primary Manager• Very Proactive Strategy• Room to Expand 12
    14. 14. Option 2: ComplexPros• Contains Targeted Messages• Helps Trending & Tracking• Provides Excellent Service• Encourages Collaboration 13
    15. 15. Option 2: ComplexCons• Difficult to Implement• Complicated to Manage• Time Consuming• Room for Error• How Many is Too Many? 14
    16. 16. Option 3: Middle Ground• Something is Better than Nothing• Do What Works for Your School• Grow Your Plans Slowly• Prioritize 15
    17. 17. Conclusion• EMT Connect can be simple or complex• simple designs can be effective – better if resources are few – better suited for homogeneous populations• complex designs can maximize ROI – dedicated staff member if possible – can focus on increasing specific populations 16
    18. 18. Questions?Jaclyn Esqueda Schmidt Alexis apope@tntech.edu912-478-2303 931-372-3647
    19. 19. Simple to Complex: A Spectrum of Communication Plan Solutions Evaluation Please remember to complete the online evaluation of this session at: or 18