Given the extraordinary regulatory and political challenges facing career education, what improvements/innovations does the sector need to implement to remain a leader in higher education?
The unfair regulatory measures imparted by the government these past two years have certainly had a negative impact on our clients. In this environment, I feel reputation, information availability, brand recognition and flexible learning platforms that help the school stand out in the marketplace are all of vital importance moving forward. Digital media is at the forefront of delivering a rich, interactive brand experience that helps to combat the negative regulatory and political forces which are facing our clients at this pivotal time.
The digital media environment is a very dynamic and exciting space to be in right now. How individuals are consuming media has begun a fundamental shift from traditional sources to digital sources. Technology is now allowing the consumer to gather information wherever and whenever they need it. Mobile technology continues to evolve and is becoming a main source of media consumption. As these technologies continue to change, it is imperative that the education sector embrace these technologies and habits, not only to recruit students but to deliver rich, interactive learning experiences for their students. In the future, the most technologically advanced schools with the most flexible learning environments – the ones who have fully embraced the changing environment – will attract the most students.
We can no longer rely on the old methods of advertising or teaching. It is important that the current generation of school executives realize that their students have not known a world without technology. It is not lost on me that the graduating class of 2015 will not have ever known a world without the Internet and access to all the worlds’ information at their fingertips. For example, the way my child prefers to seek information and consume knowledge, as well as the type of learning environment in which she thrives, is far different than the environment in which we grew up. We had encyclopedias; they have Wikipedia. We had TV; they have YouTube. My daughter was learning PowerPoint in first grade; I hadn’t seen PowerPoint until I was 23. The Internet has democratized information. This is an important point for not only marketers to consider but also for educators. Your students, potential students, alumni and faculty control the flow of information and how they choose to consume that information. Learning has grown into a worldwide community activity – as has the transfer of information about a product or service. We no longer control the messaging or the transfer of knowledge like we once did. Educators and marketers in education must become a part of the online conversation, not an impediment to it. The world is changing, and we must change along with our students. For the first time, marketers are fundamentally behind the consumer. My goal is to help our clients bridge the gap that currently exists between schools and their potential students through creating a digital media strategy that takes advantage of all the Internet has to offer. In this way, we can help students find the school that will best meet their educational needs and learning styles. It is a tall order but a leap we all must take.
Please explain the innovations you’ve brought to (or observed in) career education. What led you to recognize the need for these innovations? What has been their impact on students and higher education?
At PlattForm, we believe it is a great honor to be charged with helping students and schools connect in meaningful ways. This is why we continue to provide innovative solutions aimed at correctly positioning the schools we represent in this complex marketplace. The proper positioning and placement of a school's messaging is imperative to allowing their future students to discover the one school that best fits their educational needs and career goals.
To this end, it is important for us to understand the emerging trends in the way students are seeking information about education in an effort to provide solutions that continue to evolve with the future student. What we have noticed is a fundamental shift in the last five years in the way students are learning about their educational choices and gathering information in their decision-making process. Driven by the availability of information on the Internet and the proliferation of technology, especially in the mobile space, the potential career college student is doing much more research into their choices for education than ever before. Recent data from Google suggests that, on average, individuals who request information from a school have performed 10 or more searches, viewed at least 16 webpages and submitted their information to four schools along their journey to making a decision about their educational future. While television remains the top way individuals learn about our schools, more than ever, they are turning to the Internet to fulfill their desire for information. This change in student behavior is driving education marketers to innovate at a faster pace and develop solutions to ensure that their school is providing a cohesive messaging strategy, a personalized experience and is positioned at the correct touch points to ensure their message resonates with their potential students.
To ensure that our clients’ message is heard and we are reaching the right audience, we are innovating the way our clients attribute the value of different media through new data collection and reporting models. We are helping them to capture the increasing demand from mobile users through responsive web designs and the seamless integration of mobile specific marketing into their online marketing efforts. We have begun demonstrating the benefit of demand creation media sources, such as television and banner advertising, in driving lead generation efforts through search engine marketing. Our search engine optimization services continue to evolve, along with the search algorithms, through more robust content marketing efforts and social media monitoring. Being at the forefront of education marketing, we understand how emerging media, such as online radio and video, are working in concert with traditional media to play an integral part of developing a unique brand story to help our clients stand out in a crowded marketplace. We continue to evolve our efforts at marketing individual programs to the most targeted audience of potential students. Through a combination of emerging targeting methods, such as search retargeting, along with tried and true methods like contextual and geo-targeting, we are able to personalize a message to our potential students like never before.
As we move to the future, our mission is to continue to refine our ability to connect the right student with the right program through taking a four-screen approach to marketing and advertising. We will continue to find additional ways to not only understand whom our schools potential students are, but more importantly, what they are doing. With that knowledge, we will be better able to craft a message that resonates more appropriately with the individual. As social media marketing evolves, we hope to better capitalize on social buzz to better manage our search marketing efforts, allowing us to capture emerging trends in media consumption and educational search earlier in their life cycle. We will continue to evolve our user experience on our clients’ websites to allow for a more personal and intimate experience to the individual. Most importantly, we will help our clients to better understand the intersection of the four screens, from traditional to digital media, to help the right student find the right school. It is a win for everyone involved.
What quality about career colleges or their students motivates you personally?
I am passionate about knowledge. But as I learned some years ago, it is not knowledge that is power, it is the implementation of knowledge that is power. Career colleges teach individuals to become empowered; they do not just impart knowledge, they give their students the tools to implement that knowledge in a field that will benefit not only themselves but society at large. Career and vocational education has played a major role in my life. I have two siblings who have attended career colleges in order to achieve their career goals. My sister is a sonographer thanks to a career college, and my brother is a nurse thanks to a vocational school. Both of them have careers that they did not believe they could have achieved when we were younger due to our financial situation growing up.
Career colleges give people without hope for the future the tools they need to make their future a success. They teach them how to implement knowledge, use their passions to build careers and help those individuals to further their lives. I believe in career education because not every person has the desire or ability to attend a traditional college. I believe in career colleges because they have the ability to move beyond tradition to develop the programs necessary to meet the demands of a changing job market. I believe in career colleges because they are the leaders in bringing technology into the learning experience and opening doors to individuals who do not fit the traditional model of education. Most of all, however, I believe in career colleges because they have helped members of my family achieve success at levels they never imagined.