#VermontFor50 Program Summary: An emerging university is drawing students from across the nation, and finds a creative way to say so
The #VermontFor50 campaign was created and led by our very own Kathie Taylor, APR, during a Fractional Communications Specialist contract agreement with the University, and was overseen by Natalie Frye and Jane Tors.
This campaign was a fun way to bring awareness to the University’s emergence as a top-tier university serving students from across the country. While Vermont students had attended UNR in the past, the rolls for the 2015-16 school year did not include anyone from the #GreenMountainState. Student diversity, including geographic diversity, is a key factor in recruiting new students to the University of Nevada, Reno, ranked in the top tier of “best national universities” by the U.S. News and World Report. An unusual enrollment statistic presented the opportunity to generate awareness of the University’s status as a national university, which is – more and more – drawing students from across the nation.
The University’s fall 2015 enrollment provided us with the genesis for the #Vermontfor50 campaign once we recognized that the only U.S. state not represented in our student body was Vermont. The Marketing and Communications Department partnered with the Office of Prospective Students during the fall 2015 and Spring 2016 semesters to find out why Vermont was the only state not represented in the University’s student body. The University set out to invite five academically qualified students from Vermont to visit the campus, providing airfare and accommodations through a creative marketing campaign.
As earned media and social media engagement were the overarching goals for the campaign, we managed the entire campaign on a limited budget of $3,000, of which $1,500 came from the Marketing and Communications budget and
$1,500 came from the Office of Prospective Students (OPS). Nine administrative faculty were involved in the project, including seven full-time employees, one intern and one temporary faculty (Our very own Kathie Taylor, APR, on fractional Communications Specialist contract at the University!)
Our primary goal with the #Vermontfor50 campaign was to generate awareness of the University’s status as a national university – one that draws students from across the nation – through earned and owned/social media.
Our secondary goal was to host five Vermont high school students, Vermont being the only state missing from the enrollment roster, for a Nevada Bound campus visit, the University’s recruiting program designed to bring prospective students to explore the campus. Nevada Bound includes a campus tour, visits with representatives from each of the University’s academic units and student services offices and a meal at the campus’ premiere eatery.
- Increase web sessions by 200 and page views by 500 to the University’s main website, unr.edu, during the campaign’s phase 1 timeframe, September 2015 through January 2016
- Increase time on page from the average of 1:31 minutes to more than 2 minutes
- Use Google Analytics to determine where prospective students, parents and stakeholders were entering the site
- Drive web traffic primarily through boosted Facebook ads, reach 100 sessions through Facebook
- Drive web traffic through Instagram posts and the use of the hashtag #Vermontfor50, reach 200 engagements on Instagram
- Drive web traffic through Twitter posts and engagement, reach 50 interactions on Twitter
- Drive web traffic through a full-page newspaper ad, track traffic through a unique tracking URL
Target audiences were identified for each arm of the campaign. With regard to earned media, our audience included nationwide news and media sources outside of our local area. For our secondary audience, we wanted to reach families with juniors or seniors in high school who were considering college. And with social media, we wanted to engage our students, our alumni base and the local community, to ask them to like, share and retweet to their networks, as well as Vermont residents, businesses such as Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and Lake Champlain Chocolates, and dignitaries including the Governor and Lt. Governor of Vermont and the Burlington Mayor.
The University purchased a full-page print ad in the form of a letter from the University’s Director of Admissions, quite handily named Steve Maples, placed both in the Burlington Free Press newspaper on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015 (phase 1), and its sister publication, the College Edition in print and online two weeks later (phase 2), along with a coordinated social media campaign, #Vermontfor50, covering both phases.
We reached out to the currently enrolled out-of-state student base and asked them to write on either a whiteboard or chalkboard why they chose the University, then compiled them into a video, which was shared on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Photos, including photos of students, campus and campus life, were shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All social media tags and web links were campaign tagged for tracking purposes and monitored through Google Analytics.
The University’s Marketing and Communications Department had two e-newsletters, Nevada Today, which targeted internal audiences of faculty and staff, and University Weekly, which was distributed to nearly 35,000 alumni, donors, members of the media and other stakeholders. A news story was also posted on Nevada Today, the University’s main site for news and information, which captures more than 21,500 sessions per month.
We had quite the response with this campaign. More than 48 prospective students from Vermont initially applied for the Nevada Bound trip, and 32 students continued to email the University with high interest. Once the Office of Prospective Students contacted the first five, they awaited responses, with little to no follow-through with the students. They ended up communicating with 15 potential Vermont students total, receiving four total transcripts to verify admissibility, verified three, and sent approval to travel to all three. Unfortunately, after several attempts to schedule flights, not one student took the University up on the travel offer. The issue was that a parent was needed to accompany and lodge with the student in Reno. Many families said the offer was cost prohibitive.
Although the campaign did not garner an enrolled student from Vermont, the #Vermontfor50 campaign helped expose the University in a number of communication channels and to a variety of audiences nationwide and in our primary recruitment markets. It made quite a mark in Nevada and helped our priority and regional audiences understand this is now a national university.
Earned media garnered publication in more than 38 local and national outlets, most notably the Wall Street Journal (10/13/15), the New York Post’s Weird but True section (9/27/15) and USA Today’s News from across the USA (9/29/15) news briefs. The Associated Press and the Gannett network of news outlets also picked up and distributed the story. According to Cision reports, earned media value topped $503,000.
More than 48 prospective students from Vermont applied for the Nevada Bound trip. Three students received verified admissibility to the University, but not one student satisfied the travel offer, nor enrolled.
The campaign drove 394 web sessions with a total of 925 page views, and time on page from readers who came from the Twitter post outperformed the average time on page for www.unr.edu, staying an average of 3:11, which is typically 1:31.
Facebook posts drove the most traffic to the home page, with 168 sessions and an average of two page views
(336) per visit, with 1:30 average time on page. Twitter had 123 sessions and 265 page views per session (2.15 average), and drove the longest time on page, at 3:11. The print ad garnered the highest average of page views (3.34) for its 93 sessions and 311 page views, with 1:40 time on page. Curated content drove the fewest sessions and page views, at 10 and 13 respectively.
#Vermontfor50 was the second most used hashtag monitored on University social media channels for the reporting period of 9/24-10/20/15 with four uses, the second most engaged hashtag with 795 engagements, and the top Instagram post with 358 engagements. #GreenMountainState was the University’s 10th-most engaged with 53 engagements.
Engagements increased by 81.6% over the previous date range.