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5 Listening Tools to Help Gauge Education Brand Perception

5 Listening Tools to Help Gauge Education Brand Perception

A common challenge we help our education clients overcome is understanding where they stand as a brand. While not an exact science, there are ways to gauge your school’s brand perception.

The concept of brand perception is a bit nebulous, but it’s an important topic for school marketers to consider as you work to raise awareness of your school and what it has to offer.

Brand perception is how your audiences see your education brand.

It’s the feeling they get when they see your logo. It’s the memories they have of their time in your classrooms. It’s the stories that get played back in their imagination when they hear your school’s name.

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin

Because brand perception is made up of all these various components that you have no control of whatsoever, gauging your school’s brand perception is like herding cats.

Again, you do not have control over people’s perception of your brand.

But you can gauge it fairly accurately, and then design your messaging strategies to build trust in your brand based on how you think your audience sees you.

Remember the old marketing adage, “Perception is reality”? It’s probably even truer today as students, alumni, and donors can share their experiences and opinions of your institute on more platforms than ever before.

If you don’t have any idea of what people are saying or feeling about your school, you’ll be flying blind, thinking that you’re more loved (or disliked) than you are.

So to get the “reality” of your brand perception, there are several ways to do it.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are a labor and time-intensive method, but if you want to pull out more complicated or nuanced opinions from your audiences, they are a great way to go.

For the best results, pick one aspect of your education brand or school to talk about with your audience. Otherwise, the discussions will never end as you go over every detail of life at your school or some other topic.

Make sure that you are recruiting participants for your focus groups from a clearly identified audience. Get as specific about them as possible.

One last thing about focus groups: When you’re talking with your audience, start out with positive questions like “What is your best memory of living in the men’s dorm?” These questions “loosen up” the participants before going to negative questions like “What was the worst thing that happened to you while living on campus?”


Survey platforms like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms are making the task of creating and distributing surveys easier and more economical. They can be a fast way to aggregate a large volume of opinions, and many survey tools can graphically represent the data that you collect.

One piece of advice here: Come up with a good incentive for filling out the survey.

Even though it would only take 5 minutes of their time, people are notorious for ignoring survey requests. You’ll get a much better response for your survey if you offer an incentive for taking the five minutes out of their day for filling it out.

Social Media Polls

Like surveys, social media polls are cheap and easy. Also like surveys, most social media platforms give you insightful analytics of the results of your polls.

The disadvantages of a social media poll are that your questions are limited to a certain amount of characters and normally they limit the types of responses your audience can give you. For example, Twitter polls only allow up to four multiple choice questions of 25 characters each.

Social media polls have a short time limit to them, too. After a few days, they’ll disappear from your feed.

But if you want a quick peek into how your audiences perceive a certain topic or question, social media polls are great for that.

Social Media Listening Tools

While we’re on the subject of social media, there are some innovative resources out there to give you more insight into the opinions and behaviors of your school’s social media followers.

Tools like TweetdeckGoogle Alerts (free), or paid tools like HootsuiteNUVI, or Brandwatch aggregate what your audience is saying about your brand. They can tell you which posts are being shared, how many likes you receive, and a rough idea of the organic reach of your posts.

If you’ve got a little money to spend on these services, it can be a worthwhile investment.

Web Traffic

Even online, people do vote with their feet. That’s why web traffic is one of the most accurate ways to gauge your school’s education brand perception.

Pages on your site that have higher amounts of traffic give you a genuine look into what your audience wants to hear more about from you. Likewise, pages with little to no traffic are pieces of your brand that just do not interest your audience.

Another clue into your brand perception offered by web traffic analytics is to see where your traffic is coming from. Is it coming from sources that are positively disposed towards your education brand, or critical of your brand?

One thing to note here: Traffic data will not tell you how your audience feels about the content on your site, just that they were there or not there. It’s highly possible to have something on your site that negatively impacts your audience. Keep that in mind.

Dealing with “Reality”

There you have five powerful tools to get your ear to the ground and hear what your audiences are saying, feeling, and sharing about your education brand.

As you get closer to understanding your school’s brand perception, remember that every education brand has people who are devoted to it, and others who are critical of it. If you’re encountering critical perceptions of your brand for the first time, or much more than you thought you would, that’s a good thing.

That means you’re getting closer to the “reality” of your brand perception. Now, you have the information you need as a school marketer to craft messaging that can build trust in your brand.

Need a brand audit to help you find out where you are and where to go? Get ahold of us today!

Featured Image by BillionPhotos.com via Adobe Stock

This post was originally published at: https://www.caylor-solutions.com/gauge-education-brand-perception/


Five Elements of an Education Brand

Five Elements of an Education Brand

It’s one of those words that is used so much today, but the concept can be confusing. So what exactly is an education brand, and how do you build yours to attract more prospective students?

First, let’s talk about what an education brand is not. An education brand is not a school logo. A brand is not a tagline. An education brand is not a color scheme or assigned typography.

All of these are elements of your brand. But they are not your education brand.

I think this is where most of us get confused about what our school’s brand is. Logos and colors are tangible things that we can wrap our heads around.

But an education brand is an abstract, intangible reality that you can’t quantify or show someone.

Tangible, visual brand elements like logos and taglines are necessary to convey or reinforce your brand. But they are not, in fact, your education brand.

The difference between your education brand and its brand elements is a vital distinction. Why?

Because to create the tangible brand elements, you must begin by articulating the intangible concepts that make up your education brand.

School Ethos

The beliefs, values, and worldview of your school make up our first intangible education brand component.

Your school’s ethos goes well beyond whatever is on your About Us page or corporate values statement. Your school ethos is made up of the values and dreams that you live and fight for as a school.

/ˈēTHäs/ the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations. – Google Dictionary

School ethos is the spirit of your educational community. It’s shown in what you invest time, energy, and money into as a community.

It is possible to change your school ethos. But highly unlikely.

That’s why in working with education marketers and executives, we use a variety of methods to uncover what their true values and beliefs are. To build your education brand, you must know clearly—without any doubt—what your corporate convictions are.

Identify your school’s ethos. Express it. Communicate it.

Whatever you do, don’t waste time trying to change your school’s ethos to match what other schools are doing. Your school spirit is one of your greatest advantages.

Campus Atmosphere

For most schools, their campus is a real treasure. In fact, a donor or two probably gave a lot of “treasure” to make your beautiful campus possible!

Sterling College emphasizes their environmentally-conscious values through images of their campus. Image via Katie Lavin. https://sterlingcollege.edu/news-room/sterling-college-recognized-top-performer-2017-sustainable-campus-index/

As noticeable as it is, this component of the education brand is often missed or ignored by school marketers.

Sometimes the campus you see every day fades into the background. As an insider, you no longer notice the bright colors of an autumn day, the rich culture of campus sculptures, the unique quality of the architecture.

It’s human nature to lose our sense of wonder as our surroundings become normal for us. But your campus atmosphere can often be a huge selling point for prospective students who want a wilderness escape, a sustainable agricultural commune, or a diverse urban experience.

Consider how you can leverage your campus atmosphere to convey your education brand.

Invest in high-quality photography and videography. Place this rich content throughout your website and printed materials. Use your campus landscapes to help you form your education brand.

Brand Promise

What are you promising to your prospective students? To your donors? To your alumni? To the general public?

This is the one intangible component that you have the most control over as the education marketer.

You can write into your marketing materials exactly what your school has to offer. Or write out a moving case for support to your donor base.

But you can also make brand promises through rich content like images and video.

When your audience sees your students socializing, they intuitively understand that your brand is promising a welcoming and accepting educational experience. When they watch videos of your students in the lab, they get it that you’re committed to a hands-on approach to learning.

Write out the promises that you are going to make in your marketing messaging for internal use. Aim for clarity more than elegance in these internal documents.

Then, as you create and distribute marketing content, draw from your internal brand promises (sometimes called “brand descriptions” or ”brand statements”) to craft the message you’re sending out.

Audience Perceptions

The way your audiences perceive you is the intangible component of which you have the least control. You can’t control the impressions people have of you, or how they talk about you.

However, you can do a WHOLE lot to give yourself a fighting chance at improving the way your audiences see your education brand. Here are some thoughts from previous blog posts I’ve written about this:


If you were to cross Lake Michigan in a rowboat, you wouldn’t look across the bow to where you’re going. To keep rowing—and thereby keep moving forward—you have to look back across the stern to where you came from.

Your school's history should be a part of your educational brand.

John Wesley statue at Indiana Wesleyan University. Via Wikipedia. Public Domain.

In the same way, if you want to move forward into the future of your school, you will have to take some time to absorb the implications of your institution’s past.

  • Why was your school founded?
  • Whom was your school intended to serve?
  • What were the cultural expectations, societal needs, and marketplace demands when your school began?
  • Who were the characters and personalities involved in the founding?
  • What were the pivotal moments in your school’s history that made it what it is today?

You could write out the story these questions reveal in your About Us section, as a lot of schools do. No problem with that.

But if you want to go light-years ahead of your competitors, find ways to incorporate your school’s history into your brand messaging and elements.

Your educational brand is your most valuable marketing asset. Guard and articulate it well, and you’ll find greater success in your education marketing.

For help developing your education brand, set up your free consultation today!

Featured image by Tomasz Zajda via Adobe Stock

This post was originally published at: https://www.caylor-solutions.com/5-elements-education-brand/


Five Major Characteristics of Generation Z for Education Marketers

Five Major Characteristics of Generation Z for Education Marketers

Each generational shift sends massive shockwaves through the world of education marketing. Generation Z is already making its mark in education marketing. Is your marketing reaching them effectively?

Here is my take on how education marketers like you can leverage what we know of Generation Z to provide them better quality, more useful information in their educational decision.

Digital Technology Natives

While many Millennials remember a time when digital technology was not integral to daily life, no one in Generation Z has any memory of life without a screen.

They’ve grown up with screens in every room of their house. Screens in the family car.

Screens in their toy boxes (think: iPad apps for kids). Screens in their classrooms.

The digital world is so embedded in their daily activities, it has become essential to their experience of the world and their expression of themselves.

Being a digital native has produced certain qualities:

  • They are “less focused”.
  • They absorb information in short visual bursts, like Snapchat, Vine, or YouTube.
  • They multitask just like their devices do.

What This Means for Education Marketers

The quality of your digital presence and message is crucial to market your school to Generation Z members. Education marketers will need to master the art of digital marketing like never before.

Use rich media like videosimages, and infographics wherever possible. Design every part of your online content for mobile browsing.

But most importantly, treat digital marketing as seriously (or perhaps more so) as you do print marketing.

Although digital marketing may not be as expensive or permanent as printed materials, you should treat it as if it were to meet the high standards of Generation Z.


They are the only generation not to know what the world was like before 9/11. They’ve never known a day without a 24-hour news cycle. They can’t imagine a world without social media. They’re also growing up in homes that were significantly affected by the Great Recession that started in 2008.

Mix terrorism, violence, and economic distress with 24/7 access to an Internet that will show you the gruesome details of it all, and it produces a harshly realistic view of the world. MTV president Sean Atkins told TIME magazine concerning Generation Z:

“They have this self-awareness that systems have been broken. But they can’t be the generation that says we’ll break it even more.”

MTV calls Generation Z “The Founders” because “the name acknowledges that while millennials have disrupted society, it’s this new generation’s job to rebuild it.”

What This Means for Education Marketers

Be careful not to paint too cheery of a picture of the world. While marketers should avoid pessimism, be sure to present the problems of the world frankly.

Show young people how your school can prepare them practically to “rebuild” the society that they see as broken.


Many institutions and industries—long since thought to be a permanent fixture of society—have been toppled by globalization and technology. Traditional publishing, television media, energy, news media, marketing, and education have all changed drastically in the last 20 years or so.

As a result, Generation Z members tend to be independent and entrepreneurial.

It seems this new generation is reluctant to trust their careers to corporations, wanting more of a stake in their future than any preceding generation. In fact, up to 72% of high schoolers say they want to start a business someday.

What This Means for Education Marketers

Demonstrate in your marketing content how your institution prepares students to take control of their career, their ministry, or their life.

Generation Z members are self-motivated to seek answers to their questions—and they know how to find those answers. Education marketers need to invest in robust content marketing strategies that will offer the answers young people are looking for.

More than ever, your content must be student-centric, not org-centric. Your messaging should stress how you’re here to empower the student to build their destiny, not preserve your institution.

Feature programs, classes, or degrees that will support Generation Z members in their entrepreneurial quest.

Global Minded

Past generations have been globally aware, but Generation Z is globally minded. Their digitally integrated world isn’t hindered by geographic or political barriers as they converse with friends and followers from around the world on social media.

Location-independent teams are collaborating and doing business from anywhere in the world with a high-speed Internet connection. And we see the offline world following this trend as international travel gets faster, cheaper, and more popular every year.

What This Means for Education Marketers

Even if you’re a rustic campus nestled deep in the woods, you must strive to show prospective students how your school is connected to the world at large. This doesn’t mean you have to be political or into global activism, but prospective students want to see that you’re a part of the events on the world stage.

Feature programs and classes that offer study abroad, work abroad, or missions opportunities. Be creative and forge partnerships with academic organizations in other countries to give your students the global reach they’re looking for.


As part of the rebuilding concept, members of Generation Z feel like they are here to change things. Despite the realism that we talked about earlier, young people today feel hopeful about the future and their role in it.

Another interesting quality of this generation is that although they’re tightly connected to their world, young people desire to be unique, to make a distinct impression. They want to make a change that uniquely reflects their individuality.

What This Means for Education Marketers

Emphasize how your classes, faculty, and programs can foster the prospective student’s creativity and personhood. Feature hero stories of individual students and alumni making a difference.

Do your best to pick out stories to tell of students, alumni, and faculty who are advancing changes in the world in noteworthy or novel ways.

Reaching Generation Z

As you review your marketing messaging, you shouldn’t have to rewrite everything. But most education marketers will find themselves having to tweak their content to emphasize certain brand values that resonate deeper with Gen Z youth than other brand values.

We help school brands make their mark on prospective students—and we’d be happy to help you get more out of your marketing as our other clients have achieved. Get ahold of us today!

Featured Image by Michael Flippo via Adobe Stock
Generation Image by stokk.co via Adobe Stock

This post was originally published at: https://www.caylor-solutions.com/5-major-characteristics-generation-z-education-marketers/


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How to Create Self-paced OR Instructor-led Courses Using WizIQ

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Unlocking the Power of Marketing Segmentation

Unlocking the Power of Marketing Segmentation

For those of us in education marketing, the first thing we think of when talking about segmentation is demographics. But if you stop there, you’ll miss the real power behind marketing segmentation.

In the vast amounts of material available today on education marketing, you’ll almost always come across a word about segmentation. There’s good reason for that.

The most effective marketing messages are the ones that zero-in tightly on your target audiences.

Yelling into the town square won’t get my attention. But just mention my name and you’ll have my ear.

I think we all understand this instinctively. So today, instead of showing you why you should be segmenting your audiences, I want to show you how to tap into the real power of segmentation.

The real power of segmentation kicks in when you understand the various levels of segmentation and leverage them all to create the most useful and irresistible content possible for them.

Too many education marketers dive into segmentation by dividing up their audience by one or two segmentation methods. But the most successful marketers have mastered the art of using all three levels of segmentation to craft their school marketing content.

Segmentation 101: Demographics

Almost every marketer begins their segmentation process with the simplest type of information: demographics. Data to begin your segmentation at this level is basic:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Physical Address
  • Ethnicity
  • Household income
  • Homeownership
  • Education
  • Number of Children
  • Marital status

You can get this information from a variety of sources—list brokers, wealth analytic models, etc. But the best way to get this information is from your audience themselves.

When your audience tells you about themselves through marketing surveys or by giving you their contact info in order to download your latest resource, it’s free and highly accurate. In contrast, you’ll pay through the nose for data brokers, and even then, they can only promise so much accuracy.

But no matter how you acquire your demographics, this is only the beginning level of segmentation. To experience phenomenal results in your education marketing, you have to go to the next level.

Segmentation 201: Psychographics

Psychographics is a big, fancy term that just means knowing how a group of people view the world and themselves.

It’s the story that they’re telling themselves about themselves and the world in which they live. In other words, when your audience thinks or talks about your area of education…

  • What do they want more than anything else?
  • What do they worry most about?
  • What angers them?
  • What makes them happy?
  • What experiences do they remember?
  • What makes them proud?

For me, this is the most helpful way for you as an education marketer to determine the psychographics of your audience:

What questions are they asking that my school is uniquely positioned to answer?

How do I choose a career? Is my child really going to do better in life if I invest in a private school education? Does it make any difference if I choose a rural or urban campus?

Questions like these show you what your audience cares about, worries about, and hopes for.

This level is so effective, if you stayed here, you’d see a tremendous increase in your marketing results. But, to unlock the full power of segmentation, there’s one more level you need to reach.

Segmentation: 301: Engagement

Engagement is where reality meets theory, where strategy meets the real world. No matter what your preliminary research, interviews, and focus groups might tell you, you need to collect engagement data and refine your audience segments based on what you learn.

Some examples of engagement data are:

  • Email opens
  • Click thrus
  • Number of visits to your website
  • Time spent on your website
  • Signed up for event like campus visit, alumni reunion, etc.
  • Downloaded your viewbook
  • Subscribed to your alumni newsletter

The beauty of analyzing engagement data is that now you’re not just talking to your audience—you’re listening to them!

For example, when you see high traffic on a blog post, you know that topic is resonating with your audience. You can then repurpose that content in other channels like print or a video.

When you begin understanding your audience through the lens of all three levels of segmentation, you’ll discover the true power of segmentation.

We’re here to help!

Of course, using all three levels of segmentation takes time and an experienced hand.

We’d be happy to help you and your team unlock the benefits of segmentation and inbound marketing for your school, college, or university.

Get ahold of us today to find out how we can help you achieve the results you know your school deserves.

Image by NJ via Adobe Stock

This post was originally published at: https://www.caylor-solutions.com/unlocking-power-segmentation/