Academic Success Exchange Recap for 06/10/21: Best Ways of Communicating with Students
14 June 2021
ACADEMIC SUCCESS EXCHANGE
For this week’s session, we covered communicating with students and marketing the center, a topic that like many, doesn’t always have clear-cut best practices. Different people have different thoughts on the best methods to get students’ attention. A lot will depend on the overall habits of your particular students, the policies of your institution, the nature of your services, and other factors.
When it comes to communicating directly with students, one big takeaway we’ve learned from working with hundreds of student support centers over the years is that there is no one right way to contact students. Some student populations are more receptive to text messaging, others to social media or others to email. However, we have seen that overall, email tends to be the least effective method. Many managers find that students either don’t check their email at all, or get so many that an email from a support center is likely to get lost in the shuffle.
Next, we shifted to discussing how to market the center and the best ways to get students into your center doors. Here are some ideas that came up during our discussion:
- One suggested method for marketing a center is the tried-and-true door prize, where students have the chance to win a prize for visiting your center and using its services. This might be something offered once a semester, or during slower times when you’re looking to boost traffic.
- Visiting classes is a tried-and-true method of promoting your center to students, but it’s easier said than done. Even before the pandemic, it wasn’t always easy to get the manager’s or staff’s schedules to align with the class’s, and the visits can take time away from center operations. Currently, many schools or instructors are not allowing classroom visits at all, and a number of classes of course are still not in person. For these situations, managers have often had success with recording a video that the instructor can play in class or post to the class CMS. You can also ask the instructor to say a few words themselves about the center if they’re comfortable, and provide them with information or a short script, or a statement that they can put in their syllabus.
- Many schools have television monitors in high-traffic areas, such as the cafeteria or student center, which cycle through a number of slides or short videos about various student services or important information. If your center isn’t part of that cycle, it definitely should be!
- A surprising number of managers have had success with flyers in one of the most high-traffic areas on any campus: the bathrooms! After all, it’s one place where you have a near-captive audience, so why not tell them about a resource that could be useful to them?
- Your school’s marketing department can also provide insight as to your options when it comes to promotion. They may have access to communication channels you’re not aware of, or they may be able to help you craft effective messages.
The bottom line is that marketing your center should be seen as a multi-pronged, planned part of your operations. Students are not a monolith, even at a small institution with a distinct culture. Some will respond to interesting posts on social media, others will be moved by a door prize, and still, others will finally figure out that they need you after seeing your flyer in the bathroom for the tenth time. No matter what channels you use to promote your center, by having a flexible but strategic plan that regularly gives students information about your center and its benefits to them, you’ll be in a better position to attract and assist a wider population of students.