By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
According to the Associated Press, attention spans have shrunk by 50% over the past decade.
Depending on which publication you read, the average attention span is now between 7 and 9 seconds long.
That means prospective students will forget a lot of what they read from colleges, and they’ll retain only a small percentage of what they hear and see during a campus visit. In short, you’re going to need to repeat something multiple times if you want to maximize the chances of it setting in and making an impact.
There is all kinds of psychology to back up this strategy. Take my 8-year old daughter for example. How is it that she knows the Arby’s slogan or can sing Taylor Swift’s latest hit “Look what you made me do” verbatim when it comes on in the car?
Advertisers have done studies about the value of using repetition. Mark Young, the Chairman of Jekyll & Hyde Advertising, a firm that creates and places national advertising, said this about repetition and advertising, “We know that we need 3.7 impressions before a viewer will really “get” the message. We also know that you can deliver up to 15 impressions with continuing good results.”
The moral of the story is pretty simple: Repetition works.
Now, let’s tie this in to your recruiting messages. The trend I see most often when starting work with a new client, or when I’m asked to review a college’s current communication plan, involves cramming as much information as possible about their school or a specific topic into an email or letter. That’s the wrong way to do it – and deep down, most admissions counselors and leaders know it…many have said as much to me. It’s just always been done that way, and fear of how big an undertaking it will be to overhaul a communication plan often prevents any significant change for occurring.
Today I’m going to help you with that.
There are several rules we follow when we create an interesting and engaging set of recruiting messages for a client. I encourage you to use these to develop your own brand of repetition and consistent messaging with this next recruiting class:
- Make sure you’re communicating foundational, logical facts to your prospect every 6 to 9 days. According to our ongoing research with students, that’s how often they want some type of communication from a college. If you don’t apply this first bullet point, you risk inconsistent recruiting results. When a prospect sees ongoing, regular contact from you, not only do they engage with the messaging on a more regular basis, but they also make the judgment that your school is more interested in them and values them. Those feelings are some of what they use when making their final college decision.
- Address negatives or big objections about your college early and often. Don’t run from them, and don’t wait for a prospect or parent to bring something negative up (or sit back and hope they never bring it up in conversation). Consistent, early discussion about a perceived negative (ex. private colleges aren’t affordable, or being located in a small town means there’s nothing to do) gives you the chance to redefine that objection and reframe the conversation before someone else does. And, it gives you a greater chance to turn their opinion around.
- Short, logical, fact-based, repetitive messages. That’s what your prospect needs in order to truly understand why they should choose your school over your competitors. Instead of cramming all that information about campus life, community, or academics into one message, address each from many different angles. Determine what the big discussion points are within a topic, and then spread those messages out over multiple weeks.
- Repeat a student or parent’s name and the name of your college often. Advertisers have followed this psychological principle for decades. Repetition of who you are and associating that with positive connotations for the other person produces results. For example, during a campus visit use a prospect’s name multiple times during a conversation. And in your messaging when you ask them to envision themselves living in your dorms or eating in your dining facility, use both their name and your school’s name. This is something small that we’ve seen make a big difference.
- Mix it up. Your recruiting communications plan needs to feature a variety of content tools (mail, email, phone, in-person contact, text messaging and social media) and a regular flow. This generation reacts to a good combination of all of these facets of recruiting. If you focus only on one or two communication methods, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor that will utilize all of their communication resources. But most of all, our research shows that this generation of students wants a variety of communication types.
- Social media is personal. Be careful how you repeatedly use it. Social media is ripe with possibilities, and pitfalls. Communicating with prospects the right way on a consistent basis via social is one of the best ways to cement a connection with your school. On the other hand, a college who feeds a steady stream of press releases and application and campus visit reminders will lose the attention of a prospect quickly. Show the personal, behind-the-scenes personality of your campus and your current students and staff…day in the life stuff. That’s what this generation continues to tell us they’re looking for on social.
Repetition is one of the least used and most effective strategies that a college, or you, can utilize in your recruiting communications plan.