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Everyone remembers the first time they saw a classic film. Maybe Star Wars (I was 8 and wide-eyed), Jurassic Park (I was a young admissions counselor) or Citizen Kane (in my high school journalism class). Some of us are old enough to remember those films being released for a second (or third or more) time -- “digitally remastered to be enjoyed by another generation!” Now I enjoy watching all the Star Wars films with my children.

As we look ahead to a post-pandemic world, enrollment marketers will be left with a choice. Do we move back to the familiar approaches we leveraged for decades or do we boldly acknowledge that those approaches are a distant memory?

Enrollment managers need to do both. We must employ a hybrid approach that integrates the new and effective strategies we’ve mastered quicker than we ever imagined while simultaneously refreshing our tried and tested tactics.

Redefine the Role of ‘In-Person’ Experiences

When we consider the place our legacy recruitment tactics had more than a year ago, the focus was on identifying new prospects. The primary purpose of high school visits and college fairs was lead generation -- identify new, interested students to add to our funnel.

Recent data from Common App show us what we already know: the challenge is not identifying prospective students and generating applications. The challenge has been and will continue to be yield, how many we enroll and melt, mitigating the number we lose.

As we open our campuses again and have the opportunity to travel for recruitment programs, we will have to decide, how valuable are the tactics for identifying new prospects relative to the things we can do to continuously nurture these leads? With all of our investments in CRM software, marketing automation, digital marketing, and virtual events … it’s time for a reboot.

Prior to the pandemic, institutions that were hosting virtual events typically did so as a supplemental program on top of in-person events. The focus was filling in the cracks between open house and regional events.

Post-pandemic, this priority will be reversed. Travel for face-to-face interactions still has a critical role to play, but it should occur between digital engagement opportunities.

When data from Eduventures indicate that over 90 percent of students are interested in learning more about potential colleges and universities through a combination of live and prerecorded sessions, it’s time we fit the smaller and less measurable in-person programs like high school visits and college fairs into the cracks of our enrollment marketing plans and not the other way around.

Next Tuesday, part two of this post will explore aligning enrollment marketing content plans with the post-pandemic future.

Jay Murray is the associate vice president for enrollment services at Western Connecticut State University. A recognized expert in student recruitment and engagement, he has presented on numerous virtual panels and at conferences including the National Association of College Admission Counseling national conference.