The Power of Storytelling for Higher Ed 


Higher ed institutions everywhere are going beyond highlighting their academics and tapping into storytelling that plays on emotion in their marketing efforts. When creating a strategy for higher ed, there is more than one target audience to keep in mind. Traditional, non-traditional students, and their parents all lie within a large range of demographics, leading higher ed marketers to cultivate unique strategies that can not only reach, but resonate with all three. 


Messaging Trends  


Academics, unique programs, and certificates are all the core reason students attend higher educational institutions, right? In today’s post-pandemic world users are also searching for the lifestyle they will live if they attend that school. What’s the campus like? The students? Can I picture myself in that environment? Is there a lot to do in the surrounding town? These are all questions students are asking themselves in the research phase of their journey. Because we know this, we can answer some of these questions in the ads we create. Showing off a beautiful campus, highlights of the region, imagine inserting the prospect into the lifestyle they would live if they attended the institution.  


One of the best ways to share stories with prospects is to utilize the resources already available. Interviewing students, faculty, and parents not only gives insight into real personal experiences, but highlights institutions from the lens of those who live it every day.  


Reaching the Non-Traditional Student  


The non-traditional student can be all ages, genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds. These students are not your traditional right-out-of-high-school four-year degree program. Non-traditional students are often working alongside getting their degree, they are parents, they delayed attending college for a while, or maybe they are earning a degree to align with their current career. The story you share to non-traditional students should reflect the things they value.  

  • Flexibility–Because many non-traditional students are working, parents, or both, having flexibility within their classes is so incredibly important to them. When creating advertisements to reach them, highlight things like asynchronous opportunities, and above all else let them know they have flexible options. 
  • Close-proximity–Knowing that an institution is close by helps reassure the non-traditional student that they can attend within their busy schedule. Highlight the local area and being close to home within messaging.  
  • Sense of belonging–All students want to feel like they are welcome and belong in the classroom, especially those who don’t fit the traditional student mold. When sharing your story, highlight the sense of belonging all students feel when they attend an institution. 



  • Blogs  
  • LinkedIn  
  • Facebook  
  • TikTok  


Reaching the Traditional Student  


Traditional students are the right-out-of-high-school students that follow the higher education path. These students may pick four-year degree programs and often live on campus. Similarly, to non-traditional students, you want to share the story that reflects the things that traditional students value. 

  • Lifestyle–Because traditional students often live on or around campus, they are interested in what their lifestyle would be within the institution. Use this in ads, highlight the region, culture, and atmosphere of the higher ed institution. 
  • Connection–Traditional students want to feel a sense of connection and pride in the institution they choose. Use this to tell the story within the marketing strategy. 



  • TikTok  
  • Instagram  
  • Facebook 



Reaching the Parents  


When creating a marketing strategy for higher education, including a parent-specific strategy can boost admissions as well. An institution’s story will be seen through a different lens by a parent than a student and it’s important to align with the parent’s values through that. 

  • Affordability–Let’s face it, parents who are financially responsible for their child’s education place a lot of value on the affordability of it. Make sure to highlight their financial aid options in an easy and accessible way.  
  • Lifestyle–Parents like to picture the lifestyle their child will live, showcasing a beautiful campus, bustling culture, a safe environment, and growing region can be a great way to connect with parents through meaningful ads. 



  • Facebook  
  • LinkedIn  



Knowing how and where to reach the different audiences of higher education can help build meaningful connections with each. Using resources available to you, a thriving campus, current students and faculty, and showcasing the academic programs will allow you to communicate both a beautiful and personalized story that evokes emotion and ultimately drives admissions. For more digital marketing tips, contact us! 

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