The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 57 · 7 months ago

One-of-a-Kind: Marketing the Uniqueness of Your School


What sets your school apart from others? 

It’s a useful thing to know. 

You can devise a powerful marketing strategy if you embrace what makes you unique and use it to attract prospective students. 

In this episode, Lindsay Nyquist, Director of Marketing and Communications at Fort Lewis College, joins the show to talk about recognizing and marketing the uniqueness of your school. 

We discuss:

  • The experience of being featured in the first episode of The College Tour
  • Strategies for ensuring you authentically reflect the makeup of your student body
  • How to develop and refine a consistent school brand 

Mentioned during the podcast:

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to Higher Ed Marketer on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform.  

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You were listening to the Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, don'tor relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you are looking for conversation centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the high end marketer podcast. My name is troy singer and I'm here with my cohost, Barb Kaylor. Today on the show we interview Lindsay Nyquist. She's a director of Marketing Communications for Fort Louis College in Durango, Colorado, and this episode is all about how to market the uniqueness of your school, in Fort Lewis College, as a very unique college in rural Colorado. Yeah, it's it's a great episode. We kind of get started. We met Lindsay through they were the inaugural episode of the College Tour and you know, on episode forty seven we interviewed Alex Boylan, the producer and host of the college tour, and so we kind of get started on that, but we also kind of get into the whole idea of you know, Fort Lewis is a very unique school. It's a public liberal arts school. It's in rural Durango Colorado, in the middle of the ski mountains, and fifty nine percent of their student population are students of color and come from various backgrounds, including native American, and so I think it's a very interesting conversation. She kind of walks through a number of things. So I think you're in store for a great a great podcast. I agree. Here's Lindsay Nyquist. It's our pleasure to welcome Lindsay Nyquist, director of marketing and Communications for Fort Louis College in Colorado, to the high rid marketer podcast and before we get into our conversation of how to market, the uniqueness of your school, and you'll see that Fort Lewis is a very unique college in Colorado. If you could tell us, Lindsay a little bit about the school and the makeup of it population, what village it's in. Very unique school, absolutely so. We are a technically Colorado's public level arts college. We have about thirty five hundred students but again, speaking to the uniqueness of it, of more than fifty percent of our students or students of color, around fifty nine percent, and a large proportion of those are students from native American or Alaska native backgrounds. And I would also say just our location in Beautiful Durango Colorado is a big part of who we are and the way that we address education, both by being really connected to the place where we are in an academic way and in a student life way. So yeah, I would say that's how we stand apart. I first got was familiarized with the school through the show the college tour, and in your episode it's very evident it's a school where your students are outdoors a lot. Absolutely, and you know that that takes many different forms. That...

...can as I mentioned before, that could be an archeology field school, or it can be students in our adventure ED program who are out there leading trips with first years. It can be students who just like to go out and ski on the weekends, which is very popular with our first year free pass to our locals here resorts. So yes, very much. The core of who we are is that connection to place. That is a very cool perk, especially for the winter time like it is again, Lindsay, we were first introduced to you through the college tour. In our conversations with you were around that experience. So I know that you were one of the first, if not the first, episode or school that they approach. If we can, if you can, give us a sense of how that opportunity came to you and the decisionmaking process of you saying yes, this is something that we would like to take on, because I don't think anyone else has said yes to them until you did. Absolutely yes, we were episode one, season one of the college tour and we're really proud of that. It really came from you know, I'm sure anyone who is in a position similar to mine knows that you get cold calls from vendors many times a day. So sometimes it's really hard to sift through and find out what's going to be a good fit for your school and ways to reach your students. And when that one came to us, we were really in the in the early stages of the pandemic, and Beth, coming from the college tour, reached out to us and presented this idea and it just seemed really you week and different to us. So the idea that we could be on Amazon prime, on IMDBTV and that we could really you know, we're a small regional school, but we do have students from all over the country and how can we reach more of those students and really show off that unique all of our unique characteristics and try something new? So we really took that leap of faith. We met up with the producers, Alex Boylan and Lisa Hennessey, right off the bat and we're just really impressed by them. They really cared about who we were, who we are, and they took the time to listen to any concerns we had and you know, they were feeling out the same way we were. So I think we got some extra special attention from them and it was just it was a really fun experience the whole the whole way through. So the way that we actually made it happen was we were, because of Covid we were really reassessing what our budget looked like and how we could use it more effectively. So one thing that we chose to do was stop our advertising in the Denver Airport because travel was pretty slow at that point, and we reallocated that money towards the college, to our experience, and it just really paid off for us. We had such a good time and it's really cool to see so many schools signing on there at I think they're over fifty schools on that on that show now, and that we were part of the the beginning of it was really powerful. Yeah, that's really interesting. We had Alex Boilan on the the podcast a few episodes ago, one episode forty seven, and it was it was fastinting. I mean he's such a such an exciting guy and he's got such a passion for what he's doing and I and I...

...think that you know, for you guys to be the the inaugural episode and then to actually see where it's gone, like you said, fifty episodes, it's pretty amazing and I love that they come in with such a high level of production and professionalism. I mean having experience on, you know, amazing race and survivor and all those other shows that they've done before, it really kind of helped you guys, you know, articulate and and hone your own stories to be able to tell that was that was that your experience? Absolutely so I was. I mean we knew they were coming in with that high production value, but it still blew us away and I think it was just such a cool experience for the students. We had ton of our students featured on the show and they just loved everything they got to do. I mean they were treated by big stars and they get to share their individual stories. Alex did a great job of prompting them to write their own scripts. They're not handed language to regurgitate. It's really they're telling their own stories and we just help shape it in a way that works and I just it was such a cool experience and it helped us rethink how we shoot our media because, you know, we have a full time videographer and a full time photographer and staff. But the way they came in and got so much content in one week, I really sort of reconsidered the idea of a blitz. So really just, you know, go out on one day and try and shoot in ten locations and make sure that we're focusing on that side. Because of Covid we haven't actually been able to do that, but as soon as mass a off, we fully intend to, you know, take that habit into our production schedule as well. That's great because I'm just kind of reminiscing now about last week's episode with Dr Mark Job at Moody Bible Institute. He really talked about the importance of authentic storytelling and really leaning into video and it seems to me like that's a lot of the lessons that you learned through this experience with the college tour and and it would probably go forward, like you said. Now tell me a little bit about how I mean anytime you invest in some new way of communicating, I mean certainly everybody says, Oh, if I can put a billboard up at the airport or at this location in town, than I can expect these kind of results. What kind of tangible results have you guys seen from from, you know, being the inaugural episode on this Prime TV, imdb type TV experience? You know it. The Roi is tough too, and I always struggle with this. Is, you know, proving a very clear Roi and the efforts that we make. I will say that it's just anecdotally, it's been phenomenal. So we were really focusing on reaching perspective students, reaching their parents, and that's about as far as as we were expecting. The other audiences we reached have been so powerful to, you know, our leadership. So we reached our you know, other college presidents were superimpressed. Other, you know, people who are on foundations that we have close relationships with. It really really reach through all sort of levels of society, which was and just every single constituency. The alumni loved it, the parents loved it, current students loved it, and so we were...

...just really pleased with the how far they the message really reach. It was tough to make a exact correlation between being on the college tour and and how we are performing admission wise, but our admissions up, we just said, are in the fall we had our largest freshman class in fifteen years and our largest overall class in five years. So I definitely the college tour had something to do. It do with it, even if we couldn't make every single line connect there. That's great. That's great. I think it's it's unique. It's interesting to me that, as you describe the different constituents that kind of were touched by that, you know, you obviously that's a that's a diverse group of people that you just talked about with. You've got your board, you've got other college presidents, you've got your own leadership, parents, I mean all kinds of people. I guess that kind of even reflects back to Troy's initial conversation early on, is that when we look at how, you know, even like the Tallet College tour could impact, you know, the internal constituents that are very diverse, but that kind of starts to reflect a little bit about how the college tours also impacting your external diversity because, I mean, as you mentioned earlier, got a very unique and diverse community making sure that that's represented. I mean, certainly that was happened in the college door, but how are you taking those lessons learned and kind of making sure that the rest of your marketing communications are really reflecting that diversity and who you really are across the board? Authenticity is the name of the game. So we really, you know, we try not to stage too much. We lean very closely into representing our real students and their real stories the same way we did with the college tour. Is What's reflected on our social media and we've got a new social media coordinator in place and she is coming up with all kinds of amazing new video series that can really show our student story. She is pushing US way into more video. We used to do, you know, heavily on photography and let the video creep in on our social and now I'd think it's an eight twenty split the other direction. We're incredibly heavy on video and on making sure one of the things we're focusing on this semester on our team is making sure that the student story is what's told by students. So we're always hoping to do that. But we're doing a lot more day in the life videos with students on you know, shooting their own content. We're doing working with our influencer and ambassador programs and we're starting a new series called college cuts that will highlight our student research in the words of our students. So super excited about all those options. That's great. Just out of curiosity. What what social channels are you leaning on for this? The student stories? We're really heavy on Instagram, mostly on reels these days, and you know, as instagrams pivoting sort of within itself, I think it's a very interesting platform. Tick Tock is another really fun one for us and that's where we really push truly student generated content, because you don't want to look like the old guy and the one who doesn't know how it's supposed to be working or the one taking itself too seriously. It's exactly yeah, we're really you know, we're soliciting ideas from students really actively. We hire a ton of student interns so that we can make sure that our audience and...

...that we're using media in the right way to reach our perspective students. I love that because I think that far too often, I think that we try to think at it, think of the marketing through the Lens of who we are personally. So, you know, like myself, a fifty two year old, you know, White Male, is not going to necessarily know exactly the right way to do social media. I mean, I'm a professional, so I can point in the direction by asking questions like this and observing. But at the same time I think you're right. The students voice is going to be a lot clear, a lot more articulate and more powerful on platforms like tick talk and Instagram, whereas you know, maybe that maybe there's more ways to use facebook and other areas for alumni and some of those other constituencies that we talked about, but I think that's just a I bring that point up because I find still far too many schools are relying on facebook to try to recruit students and I'm guessing that's not part of your strategy. They are not there. I mean we're absolutely putting content out there, but you're right, we're angling it more towards influencers. Be that. Parents do that, you know, high school counselors. So we're trying to be in every platform where we can actually do it well. I always say that it's better to be on fewer platforms and get it right than to try to be everywhere. But you know, when we're reaching students, were making sure that we're hitting the right demographics of those media. That's great. If anyone has a conversation with Lindsay, you going to hear the phrase the Skyhawk Way and I'm assuming that's part of the DNA when you are at Fort Lewis. But like to talk formally about branding and you know your approach to how you develop your brand and if you could share with us over the years how that's come about. Absolutely I think we've had a really interesting journey in that in that world. You know, five ten years ago we didn't even have much of a marketing department. When I started here fifteen years ago, the marketing department was one and a half people and it's slowly grown over time. But because of a lack of resources, both human and financial, we didn't have a lot of clarity around who we were and who what our brand was. So in two thousand and eighteen, two thousand and nineteen, we started really addressing that. It started with a website audit where we just wanted to update our website and the company we worked with on that audit said you you can't even start on your website yet. You need to figure out this core of who you are first, and so we took their advice. We really reached out for an ARP for our brand articulation. We ended up with a firm called one hundred and sixty over ninety. It's out of mostly Lah and Philly, and we the you know, they spent a lot of time on our campus. We talked to them nonstop and they did an incredible job of diving deep into who you are and really helping us articulate our brand both visually and conceptually and verbally, and that is has given us this really powerful playbook that we still use till today and will continue to use on for many more years. For sure. That's great. I've got a great deal of respect for that company.

They do they do great work and I think that, you know, I think it's such a powerful tool and I think it really, kind of, really, kind of gives some freedom to the clients when they can clearly articulate the brand. Because, I mean, I think everybody kind of gets it internally and it's like I get it, and especially we hear that when students come to do a campus visit. I mean every every school will say, well, if I can get them on campus, then I know that they're going to come. And I think that that is the fact that the students are coming in there experiencing the brand. They're they're living it out and I think part of the challenge for schools and high reed marketers is how can we articulate that and put it and put it into a playbook that we can repeat outside of a campus visit. We can repeat in, you know, in a in a show like the college tour, we can repeat and in an instagram post or, you know, an ad in a paper, click add or other ways. I think that you know what was some of those threads that they found when they looked at the Skyhawk way, I mean, if you kind of look at your playbook, what are kind of those threads that kind of go through that? A lot of it, I mean we have our students come from such diverse backgrounds that that's something we always struggled with. And when you talk about a lot of times people on campus have the right concept. It's just struggling to articulate it. Even within campus we really struggled to to all be consistent about saying who we were. Some people believed we were a very classic Leoberal Arts Institution. Others thought it was more of a ski and adventure school. So we had a lot of different inflicting messages and so a lot of the work that we did with one sixty over ninety came out to this common threat of Grit. So whether our students are coming from, you know, inner city Denver or a reservation in New Mexico or, you know, Marine County in California, they're all bring a certain amount of grit with them and that's what led them to Fort Louis. We be life. So it's just really interesting to find that commonality among our very disparate student group. And so a lot of our our you know, our pillars of our brand speak to that and speak to working through challenges and, you know, finding your own way. Things like that became the key of who we are and you know, it's really helped us. I think our increased enrollment numbers speak to finding students that are excited to be here and want to connect with it. You know, we're a small rural school. We're not for everybody. We don't have Greek life. We, you know, are we do have an NCAA division two. We have a lot of great sports, but it's very different than a big state school, even like the one I attended. So I think finding students that are excited to be here for what Durango and the Fort Louis campus offers, those of the students that are going to stick around, be really successful and take advantage of what's here. That's great. I love the I love that. How even that Word Grit, I mean that's obviously not showing up in your in your headlines and all that necessarily, but I think it gives you a framework and I think that's one of the important things that a brand, a clear brand articulation and really walking...

...away with a good brand deliverable can allow you to do because all of a sudden it gives you that framework to be able to say, how do we communicate these these these stories that overcome challenges, how do we share these different aspects of who we are through this, through this filter and lens of Grit, without necessarily, you know, saying that you know specifically, and I think that's what really makes up a really good grant brand program several times. So that's great. Lindsay, if you've listened to this show, you know that we always ask from your perspective, and I guess, in through the Lens of uniquely marketing a brand, if there's a piece of advice or theory, an idea that you could offer other marketers out there that they could implement almost immediately. What would your advice be? I think my best advice is to hire good people and to listen to them. You know, and in my role we've talked about as as we sort of age out of digital marketing or social media, it's so important to stay in tune with young staff and students and just staff with very specific areas of expertise and really let them do their thing and support them in that journey. So that's I mean, I am so fortunate to have such an amazing group of team of people that I get to work with every day and they just create the most amazing stuff and they collaborate well and we get recognition for it and we are able to serve the students that we do because of that. So it's that's something I feel pretty passionately about and I see sometimes a larger organizations just the complexity. Let's that not happen. If you have a super rigid brand, I think you're not able to flex and be creative like a creative team should be. So listen to your staff. That's great. That's great. Thank you, Lindsay. If anyone would like to contact you as a result of this conversation, what would be the best way for them to do that? Definitely can reach out to me on Linkedin, Lindsay, and I quest it might be the only one. That's great. Thank you for being a guest with us. Really enjoyed learning more about you and Fort Lewis Awesome. Thanks so much to both of you. Bart do you have any thoughts that you would like to share before we close out today? Yeah, I just have a couple things that I kind of want to pull to the top of the surface here from what Lindsay has said, and I want to encourage everyone because I know there's a lot of different demographics of schools that listen to the podcast. I mean, we've been growing over the past year and we're grateful for that, but I know that there are some schools out there that listen to this and you have one person or one and a half people, as Lindsay kind of talked about, you know, fifteen years ago when she started at Fort Lewis. I just want to encourage you that as things change, as things grow, as marketing impacts things on campus, your team will grow as well, and I think that what you're hearing Lindsay say today is it should be encouragement for you to kind of look and prepare and head down the path, start doing...

...the things that are kind of maybe what you can do because you're nimble, because you're small, but also kind of listen to the the the wisdom that comes through this show. I mean Lindsay kind of talked about the authenticity that she's trying to and her team or trying to come come across with with their storytelling, with their video, what they learned from the college tour. And maybe you're not going to be able to have the college tour come to your campus, but you can watch several seasons of that college tour and see how see the patterns that they do and how they're doing that. You know, borrow from that. I mean, and I think that Alex would say that just as much as as he did on his episode, take advantage of that and to and see and look at what other people are doing apply it to your own school, obviously to be the most authentic, but kind of lean into those places. And then also just this whole idea of brand really taking the time and if you can, if you can afford to have somebody on the outside come in, it's probably going to be better. But even if you just want to do your own exercises internally just to say who are we and what makes us different, there's all kinds of books, there's resources out there to be able to walk you through that. But if you can have that and you can have a playbook, all of a sudden your marketing starts to take off and it really starts to get legs of its own, and I think that Lindsay kind of demonstrated that in some of the stories that she told and the way that they're seeing success in their enrollment and seeing success and some of the marketing aspects they're doing even by, you know, internal recognition from the board or from other presidents in the region. It's a lot of things that can kind of play into that. So again, authenticity, video and brand and being encourage that, even if you're a small shop, you can continue to do the good things and grow into something much bigger. Well said, Bart. That brings us to the end of another episode of the High Ed Marketer podcast. I show was always sponsored by Taylor solutions and education marketing and branding agency and by think patented a marketing execution company combining print and personalization for engagement success. On behalf of Bart Kaylor, my cohost, I'm Troye singer. We are grateful that you joined us. You've been listening to the Higher Ed Marketer. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening with apple podcasts. We'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

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