They’re motivated, they’re eager to make a difference, and they bring a breath of fresh air to every team. I’m talking, of course, about college students and recent graduates. Young talent is a real asset for a company, which is why competition for these candidates is so high. To attract qualified young professionals, you need a solid university marketing plan.
Understanding University Markting
But what exactly is university marketing? To put it simply, “university marketing” refers to your means of addressing, engaging, and ultimately recruiting college students.
Because of the escalating war for talent, companies need to become visible to young talent while they’re still in school. The sooner you can convince these candidates that you’re a great company to work for, the higher the likelihood they’ll choose you after they graduate.
Like general recruitment marketing and employer branding efforts, university marketing pursues a set of talent-related goals:
• To reach an audience of potential applicants and employees for your company — in this case, students and new grads.
• To increase awareness about your company and its products and services among the target group of talent.
• To strengthen your image as a good employer among relevant talent populations.
The key to successful university marketing is adequate, early, and targeted planning. As you prepare to communicate with university students, think carefully about your goals. Ask yourself the following questions to get some clarity on how you should proceed:
• Who is your target group, and where can they be found? Be sure to get specific here. For example, at what stage are the students in their studies? Are they new students, graduates, dropouts? Which courses and subjects do the students take?
• What is the current situation like on the average college campus? What is the social and cultural environment like?
• Which schools would you like to work with?
• In which regions and niches is your company active?
• What time frame and budget do you have for your university marketing measures?
Once you’ve answered these questions and identified your target schools, it’s time to reach out to those universities to begin the process of collaboration.
University Marketing, Step by Step
In a nutshell, your university marketing strategy should follow three steps:
1. Make your target group aware of your brand and promote a positive image of your organization as an employer. Possible tactics include guest lectures at universities and colleges, posters and other advertising materials on the school’s premises, and advertisements on the school’s website.
2. Make direct contact with your target group and start a conversation. Booths at job fairs, information stands on campus, offering courses and seminars, sponsoring awards, and inviting students to visit the company are all great ways to do this.
3. Maintain contacts with students through internships, student employment activities, and cooperation on school projects.
Of course, you have a few different options when it comes to how you go about implementing these steps. Let’s take a look at some of the tools and tactics you might want to use for your university marketing efforts:
Print media like student newspapers can be an easy way to reach students. However, there are relatively high costs associated with placing print advertisements. Placing outdoor advertisements, posts on notice boards, and passing out flyers and brochures may be more cost-effective, depending on your budget.
Between smartphones, laptops, and tablets, college students spend a lot of time online. Thus, it’s a good idea to make your brand visible online to reach your target group.
Social media is an important factor here, so be sure to establish a company profile and active presence on sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and anywhere else your target candidates might spend their time online. Use these channels to posts vacancies and career opportunities, and increase awareness of your brand through tailored advertisements.
On your own website, be sure to create a company careers page where candidates can see open jobs and learn more about your organization. Also, publish and promote blog posts about your company’s activities to give candidates insight into everyday life at your organization.
College campuses are often teeming with events, which can be effective ways to get into contact with students. For example, you can get your brand in front of students by sponsoring sporting and cultural events, competitions, prizes, or scholarships. You can participate in university job fairs meet students directly. You might even consider giving guest lectures for more focused engagement with students.
If you do participate in on-campus events, be sure to budget for merchandising items (i.e., “swag”). These can be roll-ups, flyers, giveaways, and also branded clothing for your colleagues on site.
You can also work with students directly to start building relationships. Internships are the most common way for employers to work with prospective candidates, but they’re not the only option. For example, you can help students with their academic work, too, by serving as a resource for bachelor’s theses, master’s theses, and doctoral dissertations.
University marketing campaigns can take many forms, depending on what’s right for your organization. And the best part is that you don’t need a massive budget to market to students.
In fact, creative campaigns don’t have to cost a lot. A sponsored coffee bike parked outside of a student center can generate a lot of positive attention, and the price tag can be as low as $500, depending on how many students you provide with coffee.