Competency D: Identify Target Populations and Use Appropriate Marketing Strategies

No program or service, no matter how well developed and delivered, will be useful if students don’t participate in it. Therefore, learning how to market the programs we offer and services we provide becomes an essential task. By listening to other experts in the Career Services office and in my internships, as well as by incorporating strategies I learned before returning to school while working in real estate and an arts nonprofit, I was able to market to specific stakeholders in several programs and services.

I was involved as part of a team, working in tandem with staff in the Center for Civic Engagement, in the development and implementation of the yearly Nonprofit and Volunteering Fair. This event invites Oregon nonprofit and government organizations to connect with students in the same way that our regular Career Fair does, as well as offer some workshops, panel discussions, or seminars to educate students about the possibilities of working in the nonprofit world. Last year, the team put a survey out to students regarding what they most wanted to learn about regarding nonprofits, and the responses from this survey helped us to organize the workshop themes. Since the largest interest seemed to be in international opportunities, we focused our tagline for the entire event on this interest. In developing our marketing materials, posters and flyers and advertisements, we incorporated a logo that also capitalized on this international theme. Using all the resources at our disposal, we created Facebook event pages, posted the event on both of our websites, and wrote press releases for the student newspaper. For a bit more targeted approach, we identified disciplines throughout campus that would encourage students to do service type work, in the environmental sciences or public health or education, and sent targeted emails out to the advisors and faculty in those disciplines. Many of the academic programs on campus require students to complete internship or service learning credits in their field of interest, and the Nonprofit and Volunteer Fair was an excellent way for students to locate possible internship sites. We also sent targeted emails to service oriented student organizations. In these ways, we marketed to those we thought could most benefit from the event.

During my internship with the College of Engineering as an advisor, I spent the first several weeks of the term organizing a brand new event directed at General Engineering students. In the fall, these students attended presentations provided by each of the Schools within the College, including the School of Civil and Construction Engineering and the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering. In the winter, my direct supervisor, Tyler DeAdder, had an idea for an engineering student organization fair. Geared toward first year students, this fair was to bring all the various organizations associated in any way with an engineering discipline together with students who were still trying to decide their discipline of choice. Therefore, if their courses weren’t helping them make those distinctions, involvement outside of the classroom might help them decide. In order to market this event, we sent email directly to all the General Engineering students. We explained in the email that this event would help them make choices at their winter advising meeting, so it was important to attend. Unless they had a class or other obligatory conflict, they were required to attend as an element of the General Engineering program. This very targeted marketing strategy worked well.

In Career Services, I’ve learned from several of my colleagues about the various ways to market our programs and services to students. We use Facebook regularly, posting interesting jobs, articles, and contests on our page. A lot of this work is done by several of our student workers, and the contests and posts they develop always get the most response. Our blog, Career Beavers, has weekly articles written internally, jobs, and tips for career preparation. The administrator of the blog also links to articles and posts she finds interesting on other sites. The key to marketing with the blog, she’s taught me, is to keep it very active. She is also constantly working on making our website more intuitive with more useful information that can be more easily found. We send out a monthly newsletter, directed at staff and faculty, about our upcoming events. This project was one I originated because we were getting feedback from staff and faculty that they received too much email from us. I’ve since delegated this work to one of the Career Assistants, and she has greatly improved the look and content of the newsletter. We also have ambitions to do more targeted programming, which will necessitate targeted marketing. For instance, the seminars we do surrounding the Career Fair, which utilize the expertise of the employers coming to the fair, have great potential for more targeted outreach. This includes matching specific employers to specific colleges or disciplines within colleges, and when we accomplish this, we will change our marketing strategies for these programs. Within the confines of our limited resources, it is important to utilize targeted marketing strategies, reaching the audiences we believe could most benefit from our programs and services.

4 Responses to “Competency D: Identify Target Populations and Use Appropriate Marketing Strategies”

  1. Melissa Yamamoto says:

    Sounds like you have taken a very thoughtful approach to marketing. What has been the response? How do you know if your efforts were effective or not? What do you feel you still have to learn?

    • We survey students about where they’ve heard about our large events to gage where students get most of their information. Unfortunately, students seem to be spread across all mediums, including print, word of mouth, and online, when it comes to how they found out about a program or event. So, we continue to use all medium to get our message out. When we steadily increase our numbers, from event to event and year to year, we feel good about our efforts.
      At NASPA, I attended the New Professionals and Graduate Students Institute, and one of the facilitators told us that they no longer spend much time or energy on print materials, but they focus on word of mouth. Getting students to text friends in the 20 minutes before an event was their strategy, and I’d love to know a bit more about other word of mouth tactics.

  2. Melissa Yamamoto says:

    Hmmm…word-of-mouth can be effective to some extent, but I also worry that it would be difficult to accurately get the message out as wide-reaching as we would like. I think using multiple methods is smart, as different students pay attention to different things.

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