Student Recruitment: 4 Pillars For Effective Communications

Many universities and professional learning platforms are dogged by the same question: Why aren’t our student recruitment communications more effective?

Let’s be honest, we’re not going to be able to answer that in a 5 minute blog read, but we can show you how to build the right foundations. By starting with these four pillars, the student recruitment communication plans and strategies you build on top will be good and strong.

Who needs strong student recruitment?

While there are relatively few universities out there right now starting from scratch, many are launching new programs or models of study, not to mention all the industry specific e-learning courses popping up. All of which need a strong foundation to secure an engaged first cohort of students and brand ambassadors for the future.

As with everything in marketing and recruitment, consistency and turning up every day with a positive outlook is key. If these pillars are not maintained on a regular basis or practiced with care and sincerity, they will eventually crumble:

1) Find your niche

Most universities, colleges and e-learning platforms will know what their niche is already in a broad sense. However, when launching a new course offering or self-paced learning module it is vital you go back and assess what the niche you are trying to fill actually is. 

For example, The Royal College of Art has a clear focus on art and design at an undergraduate and postgraduate level. However, when launching its series of short summer online courses, the additional niche it tries to occupy is that of creative training for professional learners and executive staff.

Source: Royal College of Art

2) Stay connected

One silent killer for your student recruitment communications is stagnation. No one knows they’re treading water and it’s difficult to get moving again once you are. An excellent way to combat this is to routinely connect with other learning institutions and resource providers.

Try the following strategies to avoid falling asleep at your post:

  • Set aside 1 hour each day to support fellow higher education marketers, listen to their podcasts, comment on their insights, and send them positive messages.
  • Block some time each month to attend relevant webinars, in-person events, and attend open days. If it comes up, always be transparent and honest about who you are and why you’re there.
  • Don’t be afraid to share knowledge and resources. Reach out to other marketing teams and set up a department exchange and campus tour.

3) Know your audience

As with knowing your niche, it will probably be clear to established institutions what their bread and butter audience is. Coming back and identifying new target groups on a regular basis, and getting more specific with individual programs or courses will only strengthen recruitment communications in the long run.

Those who can effectively communicate with potential learners create and reevaluate their buyer personas, market research, and social listening strategies on a consistent basis.

The Royal Agricultural University (or “Royal Ag” as the students call it) has a clearly defined target audience of those interested in advancing agricultural research and practices. All communications and course offerings hang off this central theme. They have a clear identity of their ideal student types and a strong idea of what they themselves represent, which brings us to our next pillar.

4) Know yourself

Alongside finding your niche, knowing your own brand is potentially the joint first pillar to prioritize. If you have no niche you have no focus; if you have no brand you have no voice, values, or goals.

To truly have strong and effective student recruitment communications, you need to know what you represent, how you want to be seen, what you want to say and in which tone you want to say it. Once these points are addressed you can operate with confidence in your niche and demonstrate that you are the most trustworthy in your field.

Knowing exactly what your university, college or platform stands for also strengthens internal communications too. For example, stakeholders from offline marketing (such as ambassadors at recruitment fairs) now know exactly which aspects of your digital communications strategy dovetail with their activities.


Using the four pillars outlined above means you can begin to build your next student recruitment strategy on rock not sand. Potential learners want to know they are dealing with experts, so don't be afraid to share your knowledge and connect with those doing it well.

Get to know your audience and always be learning from them through feedback and social listening. Document your own style, be clear internally about what you want to show and represent, and make sure all activities feed into those of other relevant teams.

Need help with your student recruitment communications strategy? Words On Brand are here to help!

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