In the midst of our everyday work, collaborating on exceptional projects with client-partners nationwide, Yes& | Lipman Hearne stays attuned to the ever-changing landscape of higher education, including enrollment and philanthropic giving trends. With the storied 2026 “demographic cliff” of traditional college-bound populations on the horizon and today’s highly charged public discourse around the value of higher education, the challenge of communicating to prospective students, families, alumni, and donors is a real one.
In addition to these broad trends, the sector as a whole has been navigating a global pandemic with its own financial, human, and practical impacts. We took a step back and investigated the ways marketers, communicators, and fundraisers in higher ed are changing the ways they work. We set out to understand the following:
- How has the work of engaging audiences evolved since the pandemic began?
- What insights about marketing channels and tactics might our partners in higher ed value as we all look ahead to 2023 and beyond?
In May 2022, we sent a survey via email to our database of subscribers who’ve indicated they work in higher education. Initial self-identifying demographic questions allowed us to characterize respondents based on their type of institution, size, location, and job role. The survey’s results are now available, supplying relevant insights we hope will inform planning for the upcoming year. Dive into our report to understand how marketing in higher education is changing. Our full report is available for download, and any questions on this research can be directed to our inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our top six takeaways:
- Advertising: Digital online banners continue to reign—getting in front of the right people, at the right time, is the top tactic for advertising right now: 90.8% of higher ed marketers and communicators were using this tactic in 2019; 25.5% will sustain what they are doing now and 66.3% will increase the use of digital banner ads. Advertising on streaming services, too, is on the rise: 76.6% of respondents said they’ll either sustain or increase the use of this tactic.
- Philanthropic and Alumni Communications: Those who love print, love print. But we see the use of direct print solicitations, print annual reports, and print magazines trending downward, while digital versions of these pieces are trending upward. In-person events and donor visits are making a comeback, unsurprisingly. And the virtual engagement of donors and prospects—a tactic new to most during the pandemic—appears to be here to stay.
- Recruitment-Focused Channels: Over half of participants were using text messages as a way to reach prospective students in 2019. Going forward, 59.8% say they will be increasing the use of text messaging. As for the use of paid and promoted Snapchat and TikTok content, the jury is still out; enrollment marketers do seem to be migrating to TikTok and putting less energy into Snapchat.
- Organic Content: The use of virtual/hybrid events will increase for 82.1% of higher ed marketers in 2023. On social media, organic posts on TikTok and LinkedIn seem to have the most value, with half of participants predicting they will be increasing the use of these tactics. Snapchat continues to be an area of uncertainty. Digital newsletters were widely used in 2019, much more so than print newsletters, and 40.5% of marketers say they expect to further increase the use of digital newsletters in 2023.
- Marketing Focuses: For enrollment and admissions professionals, the top two areas of marketing focus in 2023 will be DEI and visibility—each being rated a top priority by 92.8% of respondents (the survey allowed for selection of more than one priority). For philanthropy and advancement professionals, brand management was selected as the top marketing focus by 87% of participants.
- Pandemic Impacts: A third of advancement professionals agreed that the current economic and/or political environment is influencing their campaign planning, while two-thirds of enrollment and admissions participants agreed the current economic and/or political environment is influencing how they market their school to prospective students.
Traveling from Chicago to National Harbor, Lipman Hearners Alexia Koelling and Kirsten Fedderke packed bags containing more than just a …: