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This piece is a continuation of "Enrollment Marketing: Digitally Remastered Part 1," where I discussed redefining the role of in-person recruitment experiences alongside virtual ones.

Once we accomplish this task, it will be important to ensure that our content plan aligns with this new reality. Consider today’s entertainment juggernauts. In addition to generating great content, Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu also focus on creating a marketing plan and simple user experience for their audience. Like them, taking great care in how and when we release content we’ll ensure that our digital content and in-person experiences are meaningful and impactful.

Move From Events to Engagement

In a recent article, “This Is the Way,” enrollment content marketing was compared to the release strategies of popular streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+.

Higher education institutions rely on the Netflix approach with in-person experiences. In-person open houses are the equivalent of a full season dropped and binged on a single day. Virtual engagement platforms for the past year have been used in similar ways -- virtual events have dominated prospective students’ inboxes for the past 12 months.

As in-person experiences return to our repertoire, continuous content production in our virtual environments will be key. We’ll need to adopt the Disney+ approach: episodic release of content. Of course, our admissions information sessions and financial aid workshops won’t compete with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (can’t wait for this one!) or The Mandalorian (loved it!). But we have an opportunity to repurpose our content in a variety of ways to support continuous engagement, conversion and yield. Imagine: Students anxiously awaiting new virtual content from their top college choice, just like they waited for each episode of The Mandalorian?

It’s time for admissions officers to stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about our prospects’ media consumption habits as we measure the success of our efforts. At the recent “Spring Forward” executive forum sponsored by PlatformQ Education and moderated by Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik, Mateo Remsburg, director of recruitment at the University of Utah, observed that oftentimes they saw more views and engagement with on-demand content rather than in a number of their live events. Using this metric is a great place to begin.

Are You the Disney Vault or Disney+?

We need to refresh our approach to content distribution, and that means keeping up with the habits of our audience. We’re all consumers of media. We all have our platforms and devices of choice. Why, then, do we put our understanding of how people prefer to connect and engage on the shelf when we enter (or dial in) to marketing planning meetings and place so much value on programs that continue to fade in importance?

The Disney Vault was a marketing tactic to create urgency to buy the latest enhanced version of a classic. The vault goes away when everything is available in an on-demand library. Enrollment marketers have an opportunity to do away with their vault and build their own Disney+ by empowering their team to maintain consistent engagement and produce fresh content in support of conversion and yield. Post-pandemic enrollment will require a hybrid approach that incorporates a consistent distribution of fresh digital content paired with meaningful in-person experiences that differentiate our institutions from our peers. The true winners will be those who accept this reality and move forward.

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.

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