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Higher Education Marketing

The Why & How of a College Newsletter

Date posted: March 8, 2013

Publishing a regular newsletter is an essential aspect of any communications strategy. Integrating a newsletter into your content calendar does not have to be difficult or time consuming. If done properly, i.e., with the right tools and effective scheduling, issuing a newsletter can be a simple way to boost your entire communications plan by a few notches.

There are likely two questions you are asking yourself: “Why should we issue a newsletter?” and “How can we get started?” Let’s dive in and find some answers.

Why it’s important to issue a College or University Newsletter

1. Expand your reach. Students and faculty are an integral part of a college’s overall network, but there are many people outside campus grounds that are interested in what’s happening at the college. By offering a newsletter to an extended audience, your college will expand its overall branding to various subsets of the external community, including potential partners and prospective students.

2. Strengthen your ties. Ultimately, a newsletter helps your college stay connected to a given community. As you offer subscribers a regular dose of college-related news and information, you are also giving them another way to contact you and to keep in touch. Even as students or faculty graduate and retire, they will likely stay subscribed to the newsletter, thereby preserving the relationship they have with the college.

Example: One of University of British Columbia‘s  various newsletters helps the Faculty of Food and Land Systems “Reach Out” to their audiences.

How to launch and maintain a College or University Newsletter

1. Define your audience(s): One of the greatest advantages of a newsletter is that you can design it to target a specific audience. Ultimately, this gives you the opportunity to directly contact a specific demographic with information on important news, updates, and events. For example, you can launch separate newsletters for alumni, prospective students, partners, faculty, staff and currents students. This is beneficial because it allows you to enhance the impact of your communication efforts on various initiatives (open houses, new scholarship opportunities, international programs, new research projects, etc.)

By defining your audiences and then designing distinct newsletters for each of them, you will make it easier for readers to be aware of opportunities that are of interest to them.

Example: Carleton University publishes a monthly newsletter specially catered to prospective students.

2. Develop a schedule and a team: Once you’ve defined your audience, you need to establish a schedule and a team. Maintaining a consistent schedule for your college or university newsletter will ensure a timely and efficient distribution process. Set up a content calendar that will map out the creation and distribution timeline, and which stories will be featured in the newsletter. This schedule will be easier to draft when you know who you will be working with, so develop a team and ensure that each member is aware of how they will be involved with the newsletter each month (or each week! You decide the frequency of the issues.)

As always, we suggest including students in all of your higher ed marketing initiatives. In the case of a newsletter, students can help with choosing topics and writing the content. Ideally, someone who is a part of your target audience would be on the team. For example, an alumnus would be helping with the Alumni Newsletter, an international student on the International Student Newsletter, etc.

3. Set up a template: You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you send out a newsletter. Whether you decide to distribute a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly newsletter, the best way to maintain a smooth process is to create and stick to a specific template.

There are many different email marketing service providers (for example, MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, and Vertical Response) that allow you to customize any one of their available templates. Once you choose a template, modify it so that it includes the following:

    • College or University logo
    • Social media buttons
    • Contact information

Once you have your template ready all you need to do is insert new content and corresponding images.  This will allow your team to maintain a simple process and consistent look.

4. Make it visible: Make it easy for people to subscribe to your newsletter by setting up a “Sign Up to Our Newsletter” call-to-action on your website. If you’re setting up a general newsletter for the entire college or university, place the sign-up option on every page of your site by integrating it into your header or sidebar. Or, if you decide to distribute several audience-based newsletters, integrate a “Newsletters” page into your navigation and list all of the different newsletters on that page with the corresponding “sign-up” option for each one.

Example: California College of the Arts (CCA) placed their Newsletters page through their “About Us” section. Also, the sign-up form allows users to sign up for several different CCA newsletters that may interest them.

5. Monitor and analyse: The key to maximizing on your newsletter campaign is analytics. Almost every email marketing service provider will offer a monitoring tool that will allow you to track certain metrics, such as the number of new subscribers, how many recipients opened the newsletter, etc. This level of monitoring paired with Google Analytics will give you an even more detailed view of the activity on your newsletter and how readers are engaging with it. Setting up the analytics of your newsletter properly will help you distinguish your audience (alumni, prospective students, faculty, etc.) and will allow you to follow up with each reader based on how they interact with the newsletter.

If your college or university has yet to launch a newsletter, now is a perfect time to get it started. Gather up a dedicated team, establish your goals and audiences, set up a template, and follow a manageable schedule. After the first few issues, you’ll find your readership go up rather quickly, and you can expect to achieve a more in-depth connection with your communities.

Does your college or university publish a newsletter? If so, how do you find it has helped you connect with your audiences?