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Although “down time” isn’t really a thing for higher ed marketing and recruitment types, the summer months do afford a moment of just slightly less activity that you can immediately fill with the following checklist for international recruitment:
1) Audit and update your translated materials
I once heard someone say at a conference that no one at a university has the job of taking down old content. The same is even more true for translated content that no one in house can actually read! If you don’t have a list of all your marketing materials in other languages, along with when they were translated, this is the time to do it.
Even if you tried to make it as evergreen as possible, you should Google Translate back into English for a quick spot check at least once per year to see that that all the facts are ok. Get outside help if: you can’t understand the results, you need to adjust for tone or new information, or you have printed materials that you can’t run through an online translation service. It’s not easy to find a translation agency that can work well with higher ed marketing materials, even if they have a host of great corporate clients, so be picky and get recommendations and feedback from friends or colleagues in other countries.
2) Check out trends in international student recruitment and adjust your planning and messaging, where necessary
Global student mobility flows can change in an instant (for better or worse) with exchange rates, political upheaval, shifts in governmental scholarships, or visa issues. It can change more slowly (but equally dramatically!) as key countries develop their own higher education capacities or increase international student recruitment efforts. You can keep abreast of these trends all year by reading annual reports that touch on international recruitment from IIE (Open Doors), the Council on Graduate Studies (International Graduate Admissions Survey), and the OECD (Education at a Glance), as well as more frequent updates from The PIE News, the ICEF Monitor, and WES’ World Education News and Reviews, in addition to your usual sources of higher ed news.
Summer is a good time to get together with colleagues to think strategically about how developments in the US or the world may impact your short- and long-term recruitment results. Looking at these global developments alongside your own recruitment trends by country or region, you can start to see new opportunities and markets to explore, may decide to shift resources into different channels or markets, or may want to experiment with new messaging for one or more markets that fits the current situation at home or abroad better.
3) Ask for feedback from international students, recruitment agents, and partners
Research is a critical component of higher education, but it’s something that many marketing and recruitment teams find little time for. Although academic research is subjected to extremely high standards, we’ve seen incredible insights generated through relatively easy actions like hosting a focus group over a pizza – and all academics (especially those who may decide on things like budgets!) respond better to research results of any type than “we think this will work based on our own years of experience”. Although it is important to have open lines of communication and functioning feedback mechanisms throughout the year, this is a good time to ask explicitly what you can do better.
You can reach out to your international recruitment agents, international students, partner universities, academic directors of programs that attract significant numbers of international students, or any other stakeholders. Getting your own international recruitment team together to analyze these results and add their own important insights should be an annual practice to make sure you are still on track. This is best done at the beginning of summer when you still have time to make some changes to any print collateral for the fall – and there will be some international students on campus in summer and/or ones who are reachable via email.
These kinds of activities may seem impossible to schedule amongst everything else you need to do, but it is amazing what kind of an impact even small changes to wording, an image swap, a new channel, etc. can have. Plus, these are critical steps in either building or implementing an international marketing and recruitment strategy in a world that is constantly changing.
Megan Brenn-White has nearly two decades of experience in international education and content development, most of which has been helping higher education institutions communicate more effectively online with international audiences. She founded The Brenn-White Group in 2010.