The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 4 months ago

The College Tour: A Peek at Schools Across the Country

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Many prospective students don't have the resources to travel across the country and tour all of the colleges and universities that interest them.

What if there was a TV show that offered an insider's look at each school—their values, the campus life, the academic opportunities—through the eyes of their students?

Alex Boylan, Co-Founder and Executive Producer of The College Tour, a TV series that tells the story of a single college with each episode, joins the show to explain what the show’s all about and how schools can apply to be featured on the show.

We discuss:

- What inspired the creation of The College Tour

- Why the show is told through the eyes of the students

- The unexpected benefits of working with the show

- How schools can partner with The College Tour

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

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Higher Ed Marketer in your favorite podcast player.

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 conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the High Ed Marketer podcast. I'm troy singer, with my cohost and fantasy football umpire, Bart Taylor, and today we are going to interview Alex Boylan. He is the CO founder and host of the college tour, a wonderful show that you can get on many different platforms that highlights a different college each week. This is a great episode. If you don't recognize Alex's name, you'll certainly maybe recognized his voice. He was the host of CBS as amazing race, and also many of the people on the team come from the background of reality TV, like survivor and several of the other ones. So I recognized Alex immediately when I watched the first episode and I just I'm fascinated with this, with this concept of having a television show with multiple seasons and multiple episodes focused entirely on higher education and specifically on the college tour. I love his vision and his passion and his mission to get to the college tour and the hands of every perspective college student around the world and I think this is a great conversation about not only the idea behind the college tour and then what that's doing and how they're doing it, but also just some key takeaways how you can take some of these ideas and actually start to implement them into your high end marketing. Yes, I think Alex presents how to best authentically tell the story of your campus. And without further ado, let's get into the conversation with Alex Boylan. Please welcome Alex Boylan, the cofounder and host of the College tour series, to the High Ed Marketer podcast. Alex, thank you for joining. Troy Bard, thank you so much for having me. What a joys it's going to be fun. You know, we talked to a lot of dynamic people, but we really don't talk to a lot of famous people, people that we would consider TV star. So we're excited to talk to you and let everyone know about the wonderful series that you have the college tour. If you could tell us a little bit about your background before we get into what the show is all about? Well, well, thank you. I don't know about famous, but you know, this is fun. So my background. I've been in the television space for or a little about twenty years ago. I was international business major, was in the business world and was, if you can believe it, twenty years ago, was cast on the second season of the amazing race. It was very blessed and up when in that series and most importantly, during that was I got this inside look in the world of television and I love every single second of it. I couldn't stop talking to the producers. I can still hear the CBS producer saying Hey, Alex, stop asking questions about our job. This is who that you're supposed to be a contestant on the amazing right. So I fell in love with the business and, you know, spent twenty years working really hard to become successful at it. And after that, I mean I started off hosting different cooking and travel shows and then created around the world for free, which is the first online interactive show where I'd circumnavigate the globe for free. And just have done. We've filmed him, probably filmed in sixty, sixty five countries around the world. So I've had an amazingly blessed career just telling stories around the planet and couldn't be more excited. I myself, along with the the people that are behind this, Lisa Hennessy, Burton Roberts, Mike Murray and some of those people. Lisa worked on the biggest shows in the world and how create some of the biggest franchises like survivor, etc. We all say we are humbled by what's happening with the college store. It's been...

...an absolute joy and can't wait to talk more about it. Bart and I are both fans and we believe that our listeners would gain some insight and some pointers from how you navigate the college tour, the episodes where you highlight different colleges, if you would. How did that idea come about? Yep, so big picture, you know, for the audience, each episode of the College tour tells the story of a different college campus. Every episode is one institution, and what's the best part about this is we tell that story through the Lens of students. So the idea sprung on me before, like maybe six months to a year year before Covid, my niece, Isabel Palm Asak. She's from People Falls Wisconsin, Middle American family, you know, middle class, and all of a sudden she was looking at college campuses and deciding where to go. Her Mom, my older sister Andrea, gave her one trip. They go Isabel, you got one trip to go look at schools, and she chose to come out to see me in the city of Los Angeles here and I had so much fun taking her around to loyal Marre amount you sela us see all these different schools. Well, while she was here, out some schools in Texas, I want to check out some schools in New York and many other states. And I can still hear my old sister. She's like, what do you think? We're made of money, we can't afford you all around. This is it, Isabel, this is all you have. And so it wasn't long after she was here when covid hits. So my knee said two variables against her. One was she did not have the finances to travel across the country, and that is like ninety nine point nine percent of by the students that are out there, high school students out there, and then on knocking. On top of that, she's a seed junior senior class that's rolling into college during this massive pandemic. So the pretty much the country shut down. So two variables really stopped her journey, and so I sat back with her online and spend some time. I was having so much fun thinking back to my college and how did I figure out where to go to school, and it was during that process. I mean all these institutions do amazing job of marketing and telling their stories, but it's all different. You know, you can go to one person's website and there's super high end, glossy commercials. You can go to another institution and it's user generated content and we so, as an outsider, I have zero experience in the education space, as I'm trying to navigate this with my niece and helping her try to find her tribe and her vibe and where's the best place for her. The Light Bulb and off. Higher Education needs its own TV series, something that is formatted, that is clean, something that is delivered in a way that someone who's older like myself that's used to television where I can sit back on my TV and just watch a half hour, an hour episode, or for the younger generation who's used to being on their mobile devices and want to watch it in bite sizes, and so all those variables came together to say let's create this idea and let's bring this to market and it's just been an absolute joy. Who would who would have thought if you asked me when there's the idea came about, because I'm never created and I've created a lot of different shows, I've never created anything that stem from a problem. This is the first time that's ever happened, that all this is a problem outs out there and we need to make this to serve that, that those people and everyone who's going through that same problem. That's really exciting. Thanks, Alex. and I have to say that I think the place that I discovered the college tour is I we had Jamie Hunt from Miami University of Ohio on episode two and so we were connected on Linkedin and and you know, I was seeing her posts and I saw, Oh, you know, we're recording the college tour, you know, on campus this week, and every day she kept having these these pictures in these posts, and so I did a quick search and I came across Amazon prime and and saw the episodes and saw it on there. I think it was actually at home and I think I turned on my TV and pulled up Amazon and looked at it and watched...

...a couple episodes and I was just kind of flabbergasted it. I was like, this is so cool, this is something that higher it has needed, as you said, they've needed an episodic, you know, television show that would highlight the biggest tissue and why I've talked to so many, so many marketing campuses, marketing teams on campuses, and I'm sure you've heard this to Alex's boy, if we could just get the students on campus, then we're going to get them, then they're going to be able to come and I think this is just another modality of allowing students and families to get on campus. Is that kind of what you're discovering when you talk to these teams? Couldn't agree more. I mean it's interesting. The average college trip, I believe, if it's outside of your region, is around two two thousand and twenty five hundred dollars. Dish and so we wanted. We want students as well as their parents, will sit back and travel across the country and they look at a really good sense of what this institution is as about and we have some fun stirs. I mean they're still going to be hope. I think we're like a bridge between that that. Like you know, I'm interested. I've learned about this university, I've heard about this university. Let me learn a little bit more and then, if I can, maybe I'll go, because we hear. I was just at back at Texas TCU, Texas Christian University, a few months ago, speaking and their marketing team where they go. We have people that show up, like students that show up and say we saw it, we were from San Diego, we saw the college tour episode and that's why we're here. So that's pretty fun. So I think where we were on a base level. No one has to go anywhere from their cell phone and their television set to watch and learn and those that have the means that can put it possibly maybe that helps them make that extra step to go on campus. I think that's great and even as I was reviewing some of the episodes and you guys are, I think, coming up on season four. As I go through those episodes, you know there's a lot of familiar names. You know Miami of Ohio and some of those other ones, but there were a lot of names. Even myself being in the higher end marketing space, it's a lot of schools that I was introduced for the first time through the college tour and I found that fascinating because I think sometimes, like you just said, someone shows up at a school that might not have even known about them other than this, this college tour TV show. Absolutely, we've been you know, it's I love to sit back and say, Oh, we're all geniuses over here at the college tour, but I happen to be. We're storytellers. We had a good idea and all of a sudden it just hit right timing, the right project, the right team behind it and it just took off. It's been we constantly. One of the biggest things for us that we thought about early on is, you know, how do you how do you decide on us what's going to be part of the season one and how do you roll this all out? The biggest thing for us was just diversification. That was probably internally is knowing that we can't just make this the big state schools or just ex schools in this region. We Really, I think, you know, pride ourselves that if you go and watch this, you're going to see, you know, small schools like Fort Louis College in Durango, Colorado and Florida Tech in Melbourne, Florida, and you're also going to see the Asus and the University of Illinois and the Yukons and the Baylor's of the world. So you're going to you're going to get a good mix of all of that and so we try to make sure that we're peppering in, you know, so everyone's getting a great sense of what small, medium, large, location, my major all these things that high schoolers are thinking about and their parents are thinking about hopefully comes together in an episode and helps them make a better decision. That's great. And I think that partnering with these different schools and now I think you're close to forty now, I think that, you know, I'm sure at the very beginning it was a little bit of a leap of faith to be able to, you know, partner with these schools and and and be able to, you know, tell their story and let them tell their story and and just try to figure that out, because, I mean, I think it's so it's so true, and you've said this before, even in our pre interview, that it's a little different than you know, you know, a regular network television and show that you've kind of got it all mapped out, you know what's going to happen. I mean there's a lot of variables here that are a little different than usual. It's been a great journey. It's been a great dray because early on, just like anything, early on your...

...everyone's figuring things out. Okay, so this starts, this is idea. A couple things that we were couple things like early on that we knew and we kind of like we put our our steak in the ground. A We knew we had to partner with the university. This isn't like the college tour production team comes in. It's like we're going to tell the story of Asu. We have to be working with them because they know their story, they know the heart and soul of their students and what makes them tick and all that. So that's a collaboration from the beginning. Are Our preproduction process, which is about two months. That is a team. As it to our team working with their team, we become one big family, our kickoff calls it. We're now a family and we're going to go through this journey together to get where we need to get to. We could not make this on our own. We need the university because they know it. You know better than anyone else. And I down to the specifics of the authenticity. One of the well, I'll tell you a funny story, because now you know the students, the first draft, when a student, when we know we're going to talk about athletics and we know this is going to be the student as a great story that's going to tell the story of athletics of that university, first thing we do. We have some bullet points and we have some guides to help them, but we want the first draft from the student right. It's very important because we need it to be their real story. We need this to be authentics. I was always been but episode one, season one, I'm going to tell you if I sir. We're at Fort Louis College. First of all, we get there, the fires are happening in Colorado. It's September. The spice storm comes up, everything that you could think goes wrong is going wrong at the beginning of our piety, I want to call it our pilots, our first episode, and I am like heavily involved because we're trying to figure out how this is all going to work and I'm working with one of the students and all the students are going to be on camera and we have bullet points and I didn't want them to sound memorized. Okay, so I didn't want it to sound rehearse. We have these bullet points. We're going to get together and I'll say a very early on, like okay, we need to change Gope, because duds, like, what am I supposed to say? So now it's you know, we are working with that student, we are getting that student scripted, we are doing media training with that student. That student is I know because it's it's Ti. I have every episode I watch. I'm so proud of these kids and I only want calm kids, but these students, because imagine there's a production television crew coming. They have to look into that Camera Lens and touch that audience and tell their off and some of these students really open up about their story and that's not easy. Yeah, I think back of when I was nineteen years old on in college and all of a sudden I got this camera crew follow me around and they do an amazing job. So we have definitely evolved as a production and grown and learned and it's just but I'd say, you know, I go backed episode one, it looks like episode we. You know, we're we're heading end episode forty nine. I think we're shooting in a few weeks here, and so they look very similar. So the end result we got here, but our approach has definitely involved in change throughout it well, and I love the authenticity because it's one thing that I often kind of talk to my clients about is that don't try to be something you're not. I mean, you know they so many times I'll hear things like well, if we were just that school would be so much easier to market. I'm like, well, you're not. You are your school and if you can tell your distinctive story, that's why people have always come to you and I think that the idea of letting the students kind of craft that first draft, to tell their story, to really kind of get that authenticity out. That's the only way any type of high and marketing is going to work is through that highly is through that high level of authenticity. I could not agree more and it's interesting. Another fun story during the casting process is really interesting because we go pretty wide with our net. You never know sometimes it happens. Many most episodes actually where the university. They think they know, Oh, this students going to be great, but through this process all these diamonds and these stories pop up that they never know about. Happens all the time. And during the University of Illinois we're in preproduction, we think we have it all mapped up and all of a sudden this student named a here comes up and he's from India and he tells about this story of him loving...

...to tinker and doing, you know, tinkering with every type of mechanical thing you can think of. He's like taking a part is vacuum cleaner and putting it back together and his passion and he found this professor at the University of Illinois who was being very proactive in this this this device that was going to help with covid all these things were happening. His story was so incredible the universities like scrap that story that we had we just want to hear his story, and that's how I say that story, just say how real it is. I mean we as a family, US in the university going through the production process, rediscover this stuff together and what a joy, what a joy and what a great service to the next generation that would be coming to that university to hear those stories. That's great and I think, if I recall correctly and in our earlier conversation, you talked about how how important it is for your team, the production team, to be able to empower and actually, you know, as you leave campus. I mean certainly the students have an amazing opportunity to kind of get some experience, you know, whether it's whether some of the media training or whether it's learning how to tell their story or the confidence that they'll gain in that. But even, I would I would anticipate for the marketing departments, there's a lot of benefit for just being able to hang out with a professional crew who is you know, whether it's for a couple days or a week, but even the couple months process. I mean there's got there's got to be a tremendous amount of learning for each of the schools that are involved as well, no question about it. You know, to make a great episode of television it's a lot of work and there's no getting around that. Elbow Grease. That's going to happen on both sides and I think through the process we hear it all the time. It's and, like I said, there's two months of there's two months of reproduction. Every week there's a weekly call going through one one thing or another as we build to be get ready to be in the field. We film for about a week and then there's another two months in the post production process to go through that and they're there with us, lock step. Yeah, I mean every single piece of that. So it's funny not to bring the universe of Illinois a back into it, but I can remember we were wrapping up the episode that works, Episode Five, and they go can we keep doing our weekly calls, because you really just I think, yeah, there's there's great experience throughout that whole process and I think seeing our process of how we identify stories help them identify stories film get that talent, because it's amazing. You know, the there's a lot of content out there, but when you watch the college tour and you watch, I mean a lot of times we were like the early on I would get questions. People are like, are those actors, and like no, this are that's the really the student. That is really the student in their real story, and so a lot of work goes into that and I think it's fun for the the universities to be part of that process, to learn from that and then take some of these skills and their team can learn and, you know, make more content and their marketing teams, in their film teams. Most these universities have them. They're always doing stuff, and so whether it's the smaller university that just has like, you know, a parttime camera guy, which happens and that, or big one with massive media teams, matter who it is, we it's a pleasure throughout the process and everyone's learning throughout it. That's right for the schools that you're partnering with. But what are some of the learnings that you have acquired that maybe you can share with some of our listeners that they could take away or maybe reach out to you about being a partner? Absolutely well, I guess it depends. I mean, I've learned so much throughout this. I'm constantly learning. I'm constantly learning I mean in the sense of like, what an important decision this is. Just thinking back to like to me, like you know, in general, our audience is high schoolers in general, and putting yourself in their shoes and starting to think, because when I chose my university, Jackson the university, I mean I was playing soccer, but there wasn't that much out there. I didn't have a lot of help from my parents and not and they're great parents, it was just it was okay, sounds good and I went and I look at it now, there's...

...so much that happens. This is such an important decision for these youngsters. These are going to be your best friends for the rest of your life. Like this is these the location that you're at. Think about that location. You know they're there, that locations going to be part of you for the rest of your life. And so there's the people you don't realize. Me, I think of Jacksonville University. I'm coming from Boston to a small little town, not town, but it's a city, but down in Jacksonville, Florida, and you know, to this day I go back to back some university, you know, because it's part of me. It's part of WHO I am. It's part of who made me, and so I think that is that's and I just think, you know, there's a lot on the marketing side and on the Higher Education Front. There is so much. There's so much work going on behind the scenes. I mean the univer the life at a university, and I wish I thought about this when I was in high school. There is so much at your your fingertips that you're not as soon as either you don't go to college or you graduate for college, that is over. Those are those you know. I mean welcome to the real world. You're like one of all of us and you're in this semi bubble with more resources and a massive staff that is here to help guide that journey. And so to me, that is the biggest thing I've liked, just appreciated in this process and that, I think, pushes our whole entire production to make every episode the best it can be, because what an amazing story. These are four years of your life. You'll never get them back. That's it. You know, this is four years and I have a bigger impact. I can't think of another four years and someone's life that's going to have a bigger impact on their future than going to college. I don't know about you guys, but I just I look at it's like this is this is big, and so these universities, it's like they're in a universe. Is a lot different than when I was going I mean, you should see some of these places. Now, you go to options, the residence halls, everything is just at a bar and when I was going to school. So it's I think that's the biggest thing. Is just, you know, the people that are work in higher education are working their tails off for giving back in a way to help you, you know, help you have an awesome life, and how great is that? That's great. I really like that and I think that that that right there. I love the passion that you just told that, because I think that sometimes, as higherd marketers, I think we often miss the fact of how important it is. That are what our job is. I mean we are that we are the ones in trusting to tell those stories and to actually empower the students to make those decisions that are the are the one of the biggest decisions of their life, and I think that you know what you're learning with the with the college tour. What what a lot of the guests that we have here on the podcast talk about is just, you know, the authenticity the storytelling, using the different tools to tell the story, whether it's video, whether it's you know, there's all kinds of tools out there and I think that you you've obviously introduced another tool in in this idea of having a television episodes, and so I think that it's great and I guess, I guess one of the questions that I would ask is kind of as we're kind of starting to wrap up here, is if, I mean certainly not every college in the country is going to be able to partner with with the college tour and be featured on there, but one, if they wanted to be a part of that, how might they do that? And to if are there other takeaways that you would say, even if you can't be a part of our television show, here, are like two or three things that you could do that would make a big impact on just the way that you do your marketing for your tour. Well, I I would go into I mean telling real story race, telling real stories is it sounds uncomplicated and so to me, but you know, it's hard and I get that it's I think that's what's fun about this. Is, like I'm you know myself, Lisa burten Mike. I mean your twenty years of telling stories at a very high level. So we're very fine tuned in this approach, in the video format approach, and so but to me it's like fine, great stories and tell them. That could be written,...

...that could be pictures, it whatever it is, finding these finding these stories because real students at that university doing extraordinary things because of that university. That's gold and and that it's as simple as that. You find those stories and you tell them in the proper way and get those into the right audience. That's going to move the needle and I think that's what's been, you know, Super Fun. It's I don't want to sit here and two to our horn, but what it's cool. I mean this started as a very simple idea. Let's tell a story that helps prospective students. It was that was it. That was a college story. That was very is my it's a room knee and if you watch the episode at the end it says inspired by Isabel Palm Asak. That's it. But they telling the way we're telling this story is having a massive impact in all kinds of way. We're just getting the data back from season one. In a world where everything is kind of down because of Covin, lots of variables, our universities have been up. I'm not saying that just because of the college tour. They marketing teams. I'm not trying to make that all their applications are up this room. Other things are up that they never thought about, like financial giving, a love nigh engagement, school spirit, all these other recruiting athletes we hear. I was just on the phone call the other day with the with Utah State University and they were just talking about how their athletic team is using this content to help recruit in a better way. So there's all these it's hard to kind of wrap your head around the college tour. We look at it very it's an episode of television, simple, but there's all these ways that it's benefiting. So and I forgot what there's a second part of that question. Well, the second part was if a school was interested in in partnering with you and being on the tour, how would that happen? Well, I appreciate you given us a plug. That's good. The college tourcom right there. There's a link rate on there, you know, to reach out to one of our partnership team, one of our producers, and some will be in touch with you very quickly and can walk you through the entire process and and you know, just know, I would say, it is like you gotta we have a great team here. We, as you can probably tell, we I have not had this much fun making a television show and I don't even maybe around the world for free, but it's up there with my one or two like my favorite thing I've ever done. And knowing that we're having an impact. I mean how usually I'm telling fun travel stories. This is like, this has meaning, this has purpose. I watch these students and you talked about early on Bart about like you know what they gain out of that. Like the actual individual student, one of our one of our students who was Asu. She just want Miss America that we just one or Miss Universe, I can't remember which one. Look her up. Yeah, she was. She did the either residence halls or I can't remember who exactly, a segment, but it's so funement when Miss America because a college tour. I'm just saying it's at all, and I say I'm just saying, these students it's like watching just it's amazing. I we live in a world right now where I think, and I think it's it's common right every generation thinks the next generation is not as good as their generation. Right, as it's a common thing in general. I can hear my parents that I got you're not as tough as we were. I'll tell you what, doing the college tour, I have so much hope for America. It's not even in the world. It's not even because they are more carrying there, more conscious about our planet. They're more thoughtful. If you go back to what the average college student was thinking at my university, it was a great university. It I don't know, it was basic. These students are on another level now. So if you need to just feel good in a time where there's a lot of divisiveness and a lot of what's happening, watch the college tour. That is our future right there, and I'll tell you what, if that's when I'm betting on I think we're going to be a great shit. Congratulations for creating such a wonderful show and I would encourage all of our listeners to go out and watch one or two episodes. Maybe you'll get a couple new partners, but at the very least I think the formula that you use others could glean from. It's very successful and it's very authentic because cause those...

...stories are coming from the students themselves. Before we wrap up, Alex, are there any lastminute thoughts you would like to share, or maybe a secret or a quick takeaway that could be implemented this afternoon by one of our listeners? I think it's you know, have fun and tell stories at the end of the Yes, I'm a television producer, I'm a storyteller. My father was a pastor. I come from a line of storytellers and so to me it's you tell a great story and you can tell a grade store in anything. I mean it's the old adage in Hollywoods I can tell a grade store and a Napkin, you know, write in the store. So you know, find a great story and then use what you have around you to whatever, to your best of your ability, to deliver that message to the world and hopefully you decide to do it with the college store. Thank you, Alex, and good luck to you and the series. Again, Bart and I are big fans. Thank you so much for having me on. This has been a real, real pleasure. Thank you, Bart. Do you have any closing comments? Yeah, just to kind of pull out a couple nuggets from our conversation here, I just want to just want to make sure everybody understands being authentic, I think, is the number one rule of anything that you're going to be doing in high reed marketing. I mean today we've been talking about a television show, we've been talking about it episodes, you know, the college tour and the authenticity that they're able to capture in those stories. But authentic stories or kind of going to be the heart of any High Ed Marketing Plan Campaign, whatever you're doing. It's not going to be about, you know, making sure that the features of of the Biology Department are communicated well. It's going to be about the stories that are real and authentic, about how the Biology Department is impacting students lives and the world. And so I think that's one of the key things that I think that if you don't if you don't hear anything else from today, authenticity is going to rule the day and authenticity is going to move the needle and so I think that there's a lot of ways to do that. A lot of you know variable modes of telling stories. In this particular one it's through a lot of video and and and things like that. But just keep in mind authenticity, I think, is such a it's a key takeaway, as always. Well said, Bart, and that wraps up another episode of the hired Marketer podcast. The show is sponsored by Kava solutions and education marketing and branding agency and by think patented a marketing execution, printing and mailing provider of outreach campaigns for colleges and universities. On behalf of my cohost Bart Taylor, I'm troy singer. Thank you for joining 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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