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Brain Waves Newsletter

November 2020 │ Issue 37

In This Issue

Psst ... if this newsletter was forwarded to you, you can get your own here

Liz's Letter

Liz Gross, Campus Sonar CEO

Hi there,

I’ve never been good at keeping secrets. Transparency is important to me, and I think people and organizations benefit from sharing the messy side of works-in-progress. But when you trust a creator, a surprise can be euphoric—like a Beyonce or Taylor Swift surprise album drop.

I’m not Queen Bey, but I’ve got a higher ed surprise for you.

Since April, the Sonarians have been quietly working on a secret project. You told us how important the Coronavirus Higher Education Industry Briefings were to help you navigate the spring. We desperately wanted to provide more timely insights into what matters most to you—brand/reputation, prospective students, and alumni… and anything else that may capture the attention of higher education in the future (not another pandemic, please). Although social distancing kept us apart, our creative minds came together. 

Today we’re announcing STREAM, by Campus Sonar. STREAM is an insights-driven community that makes you the smartest person in the room. As you enter yield season, you’ll know what prospective students were talking about with their peers this fall. You’ll learn how to benchmark your online reputation with campuses similar to yours. As you plan your annual fund appeals, you’ll know how alumni have been talking about their connection to their alma mater. In the community, you’ll regularly interact with peers who will become your go-to colleagues when you need a second opinion.

A STREAM membership is affordable for campuses of all sizes (and their agency partners). I believe it will become invaluable—but I’m biased. Read the STREAM article in this newsletter to learn more about the community and how you can join.

Last month, Amma Marfo talked to our team about cultivating creativity in our work and adapting to changing circumstances. Sonarians agreed that STREAM stretches our creative muscles more than anything we’ve done before—and we tackle some pretty wicked problems every day. I’m on pins and needles waiting to hear how STREAM impacts your work on campus. I hope you’ll join us before STREAM launches on January 5, 2021.

Liz Gross Signature

Influence Doesn't Require Influencers

Steve App, Campus Sonar Business Development ManagerLast month, The New York Times released an article about the strange, COVID-influenced freshman experience on campus. The article quoted students from eight different campuses and, if I had to guess, I’d say marketing and PR pros on those campuses probably didn’t love the press since none of the student reports were overly positive. 

If you’re like most campus administrators, you either get very excited or incredibly nervous when regional or national press references your campus or students. The concern, of course, is the reach of the message. 

But here’s a question for you: are you similarly concerned about what students say online every single day?

Do a quick search on YouTube for “day in the life college student covid” and you'll immediately find YouTube videos from students at Vanderbilt, Boston College, Harvard, Michigan, Baylor, North Dakota, American, BYU, and others. 

Chances are, you probably have a student sharing similar content.

Student influencer on a mobile phone screen, speaking through a megaphone

And while these videos may not generate the same number of impressions as an article in The New York Times, they're most certainly reaching more of your prospective and admitted students. 

For example, Shan Rizwan, from Boston College, published a video called “College life during COVID” in September. It has more than 50,000 views.

Elliot Choy, from Vanderbilt, published a video in August called “First day of college ft. covid.” It has more than 330,000 views. 

Many of the most-watched videos show students on campus, trying to make the best of a tough situation. But other videos, from students who stayed home this fall, are less kind. 

Owen Marvin, at Bowdoin College, shared his COVID video in early October. The video, titled, “online school is NOT FUN (study-from-home vlog)” has a little over 300 views. Owen’s video isn’t critical of Bowdoin, but as the title suggests, it's a pretty depressing look at his student experience.

You may see Owen’s view count and shrug off his video, but that’s a mistake. Owen is what’s called a micro-influencer. He just passed 1,000 subscriptions on YouTube and his videos don't receive nearly the views of those mentioned above. But Owen is the primary vlogger at Bowdoin, which receives 9,000+ apps and has approximately a 10% acceptance rate. So if prospective and admitted students want to understand the Bowdoin experience, Owen is who they’re finding. His perspective is one you need to care about. 

What's the lesson here?

It's easy to be concerned when your campus receives national press. Especially now, when the news is so infrequently positive. But while these articles may come out sporadically, don't forget that your current students share their experiences every. single. day. 

And they’re the press that matters to your prospects and admits.

Introducing: STREAM, by Campus Sonar

When we started releasing primary research, we honestly weren’t sure how it would be received. Reports like our look into The College Admissions Journey, our research into the Twitter Influence of Campus Executives, and our 2019 Online Conversation Benchmarks for Higher Education report. Insights like our Coronavirus Higher Education Industry Briefings. We Sonarians nerd out over this sort of data, but would you? 

The resounding answer has been “heck yes!” which has been a joy to see play out. We’ve also heard ways we could improve the experience of sharing such hefty insights, ways to make them even more digestible. We’ve heard how these insights have served as low-key professional development for some folks. 

So we’ve been doing what we do best—listening, and workshopping how we can combine our industry-level insights with the community we love in a new way. The result?

Introducing STREAM

STREAM is our newest service offering—an annual subscription that empowers members to make informed, timely decisions based on our social listening data that addresses core areas of higher education like:

  • Recruitment and yield
  • Reputation and branding
  • Alumni engagement and fundraising

STREAM is more than reports. It’s reports with accompanying blog posts, research briefs, infographics, webinars, and more to help members digest the data. It’s a private community of like-minded campus pros and one-on-one interaction with Sonarians. It’s insights and conversation timed to align with campus strategic priorities throughout the year so members can create those strategies based on current and relevant data. 

We’re so excited to introduce STREAM to the world. You can learn more about STREAM and becoming a member here.

Content We're Consuming

#DigLead Book Club—If you’ve checked out Dr. Josie Ahlquist’s new book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, make sure you’re following along with her weekly book club episodes. Each Tuesday she chats with experts in higher ed about their purposeful digital strategy.

Many Universities Are Replaying their Fall Plans this Spring. These Two Are Making Changes.—The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Queens University of Charlotte are changing their approaches to the spring 2021 semester. Learn what they have planned and how it is changing. Subscription to The Chronicle of Higher Education is required.

The #NewNormal in Higher Ed: Digital Leadership—Raechelle Clemmons from The Tambellini Group chats with Dr. Josie Ahlquist about the rise of digital leadership, its importance, and how campus leaders can create a positive digital presence.

The Servant Marketer: Amma Marfo, Creative Bravery—Amma Marfo was a special guest at our Sonarian week of planning and reflection at the end of October. We talked about cultivating creativity and striving to be effective and successful in our uncertain world. On the latest episode of The Servant Marketer podcast, she talks to Jenny Petty about creative organizations and how we can cultivate and serve through our creativity.

What Does a College Student Look Like? Stock Images from the Quad Are Getting an Update—The images that shape our understanding of whom higher education serves are changing. Eric Hoover reports in The Chronicle of Higher Education, subscription required.

From the Blog

This month we shared guidance on the phases of social media crisis management and the five essential documents you need for a strategic social media program (find more like this in our new book!), and read more on our blog.

Blog post image for Phases of Social Media Crisis Management

See Us or Book Us

We hope we had a chance to see you at a virtual event this year. We’re looking forward to 2021 and seeing you virtually or in-person. In the meantime, stay safe and healthy.

If you’re looking for an industry expert to speak at an upcoming event or lead a workshop, check out our current speakers, common topics, and pricing.

Tell Us What You Think

Brain Waves Newsletter is for you—help us shape it. Send us an email to share what you think, suggestions, or what would help you do your job better.

Someone throwing a paper airplane to a Sonarian

Campus Sonar C/O Spaces, 811 E. Washington Ave. Suite 500, Madison WI 53703 USA

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