This summer (like the last several summers), H·A ThirtyOne presented at ACT’s Enrollment Planners Conference in Chicago. Our session, title “The Best 31 Enrollment Marketing Ideas of the Year,” was extremely well attended and saw us sharing great ideas with an overflowing audience, and collecting new ideas, too. In fact, it was the idea sharing between attendees (we call this activity “ideastorming”) that became the most exciting part of the session.

One of those ideas was shared by Christine Bowman, the Director of Admissions for Southwestern University. Southwestern is located just north of Austin, TX, and is the state’s oldest institution of higher education. It’s a liberal arts and sciences university offering prospective students a broad education to encourage critical thinking and create a path for successful outcomes…shouldn’t parents and future students get a real taste of this? How could Southwestern more effectively integrate their enrollment strategy with their academic program?

Bowman saw an opportunity with the school’s Shilling Lecture Series.

Every year the series brings pretty big names to campus (Thomas Friedman, Jimmy Carter, Benazhir Bhutto) to present big ideas to students, faculty and the community as they relate to ethics, public service, and public policy. And here’s where Southwestern brought a great enrollment idea to life.

“We had Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, keynoting the Shilling Lecture Series,” shares Christine Bowman. “Now this is someone who would have resonance with the 18-22 year old crowd, and younger. This age group is all wearing TOMS. This is a tangible example of a real Southwestern experience and liberal arts thinking.”

Bowman sent postcard invitations to all admitted students, and their families, to join the university for the lecture. But the admissions office didn’t stop there. They rolled out the red carpet with a special welcome in the Visitor Center, held a campus tour after hours (but before the event), and reserved special seating for the prospective students. All in all, 60 prospective students and families took the opportunity and attended.

The approach not only gave something to the potential students and families – free admission and VIP treatment – but it also expanded their understanding of the kinds of experiences students can anticipate at Southwestern. The cross promotion of the event, including postcards, press releases, and emails, went to admitted students and the community, getting more from the marketing dollars and strengthening Southwestern’s reputation. “We’re planning on doing this again this spring,” notes Bowman. “Jane Goodall will be headlining the lecture and we think our prospective students and families will be very excited to hear this living legend.”

The moral of the story? Look for opportunities on campus to more comprehensively leverage the content and offerings that exist. These are the most valuable elements that an institution has, but they can be difficult for the prospective audience to fully experience. Developing collaborative opportunities across divisions — be they academic, student life, admissions, athletics or advancement — provides a more meaningful experience that can convey greater value and authenticity for your future students.

More About Ideastorms

With the success of the “Best Ideas” presentation, H·A ThirtyOne has decided to host its own Ideastorm Summits to provide an interactive, productive, and fun gathering for enrollment leaders. Want to get in on the action? Our dates are listed below. Contact curious@hathirtyone.com for more information.

Early Summer Ideastorm Summit

Location: Elon University | Elon, NC

DATE: June 7, 2013

Late Summer Ideastorm Summit

Location: College of Charleston | Charleston, SC

DATE: August 2, 2013

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Karyn Adams is vice president and creative director for H·A ThirtyOne, working closely with the enrollment leadership and strategic communicators on campus. Have some ideas you’d like to test? Contact Karyn at karyn.adams@hathirtyone.com | 865.207.6944

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