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How to Highlight Your School’s Partnerships to Win at Higher Ed Marketing

Chris Hazell / Abound and Colleges of Distinction

This is the sixth of seven articles in the “Are You Making This Fatal Mistake with Your Higher Ed Marketing?” series, detailing how to elevate your school’s brand in the minds of your audience using a proven and easy-to-follow framework that puts them at the center of your brand’s story.

Your brand’s story can be boosted further by bringing attention to the partnerships your school has forged with other organizations. Do you have partnerships with local businesses that offer attractive, exclusive internships to your students? Are you collaborating with area hospitals to offer seamless certificate programs to busy adult nursing students? Familiar with any relationships with local nonprofits or institutes with whom you can host joint speaking events and conferences? When it comes to your adult programs, forging organizational partnerships to increase adult student enrollment can be a critical—and necessary—aspect of your marketing strategy.

The Halo Effect of Partnerships for Your Higher Ed Marketing Efforts

Highlighting your relationships with other respected organizations simply helps your own organization look good. For example, an education department with strong relationships in neighboring school districts or a business school with local startup connections automatically seem more trustworthy and of high quality; they already have third-party validation from community members in their field. Since quality organizations are only going to forge relationships with other quality organizations, it’s important to recognize how your partnerships can help augment and cement a positive perception of your school.

How Are Others Leveraging Partnerships?

George Brown College strategically highlights their collaboration and service with local partners in this brochure, which includes several quotes from industry experts and leaders in the city of Toronto sharing how they value working with the university’s students, faculty, and staff. The brochure deploys compelling photography depicting students and faculty off campus and within the community, revealing that George Brown College is not an isolated “ivory tower,” but rather a very involved contributor to its surrounding community. This also conveys to students that attending the school will connect them to internship and networking opportunities and, therefore, a better chance of finding meaningful work in their chosen field after graduation. There is no doubt that this proud display of George Brown’s community partnerships is helping their overall higher ed marketing story.

Keenly aware that the effectiveness of a business school depends on how it relates to leading companies within its respective industries, the Thunderbird School of Global Management also takes advantage of its partnerships to support its marketing story. On their website, the school highlights their corporate partners by simply listing their logos, which include major brands like Toyota, Intel, Mayo Clinic, and Boeing. This mere display communicates to the audience its involvement in the industry and thus an impressive level of authority as a business school.

Turning back to another aspect of an effective story brand, Georgetown University’s “MBA Employment Report” highlights corporate partners with an outstanding example of empathy and authority. Not only does the piece offer detailed information about the percentage of graduates who receive an offer within three months of graduating, the average full-time salary, and the average signing bonus (all great examples of compelling stats), but they also include a list of top Georgetown MBA employers, including Amazon, Deloitte, and American Express. Overall, the piece is both very informative and persuasive. This is a great example of a tactic for marketing to MBA students.

By the Numbers: Winning Over Your Audience With Statistics

More Than Just Businesses…

The University of San Diego (USD) has robust partnerships with universities all over the world, allowing students to gain international business experience in a number of places. They offer an impressive list of partner universities on their website, where visitors can easily navigate by country, program level, and exchange term—a demonstration of how efficiently the university can grant access to a plethora of global business experience no matter the time or location.

Seattle University has implemented something similar to USD, creating a searchable list of community partners and explaining that they are “enthusiastic about connecting students, faculty, and staff at Seattle University to long term commitments at [their] community partner organizations.” By including a vast repository of partner logos, they effectively convey that they have strong relationships with other strong organizations of all types within their community, which again only aids the perception of the university in the minds of their audience.

Most universities have already established a decent amount of partnerships over the many years of their history. That’s why it might only require that you make your previously forged partnerships known to your audience. Think about how you can convey some of these partnerships for your higher ed marketing efforts such as your website, marketing brochures, or landing pages. Needless to say, you’ll have to ask permission from each organization if you opt to use their logo (which is an effective visual approach). And, lastly, it’s important to be actively forging relationships all the time. Of course, the strategies involved in doing so lend itself to a whole book, but it’s always worth considering how to be on the lookout for partnerships worth adding to your school’s network.

Steps to Consider:

What organizations do you currently have partnerships with? Might you be able to reach out to other departments and offices to find out if there are other organizations that you don’t know about?

Think through which partnerships would be meaningful to which audiences. You may find that some partnerships are great to highlight to donors, while others would be more attractive to prospective graduate students.

Audit your marketing content to find out where you are highlighting your partnerships. Are there gaps? Are these partnerships not presented in the right places or to the right audiences?

Consider reaching out to the organizations you already have partnerships with to ask whether you can use their logo on your marketing collateral.

How can you work with stakeholders on campus to develop more partnerships with your university? This is obviously a much more involved and higher-level initiative, but is there anything you can do to help get things moving?

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