Learn how Kelsh Wilson developed a coordinated approach to messaging and design across SUNY Oneonta’s entire communications program. Kelsh Wilson Design creates message-driven marketing communications, in print and on the web, for education, business, and nonprofits. Admissions / Advancement / Branding / Photography + Video
A Case Study in Admissions Communications
Supporting Enrollment Success
For well over a decade, SUNY Oneonta has achieved steady gains in both the number and quality of students it enrolls. Credit goes to an educational product that satisfies customers consistently, an admissions office that executes every day, and in a supporting, but important role, a series of highly effective print materials from Kelsh Wilson. Most families choose Oneonta because of the campus visit. But the viewbook and outreach pieces help motivate those visits and get Oneonta onto the list to begin with.
Shaping and Testing
the Creative Approach
At Oneonta, we found an audience of students who are smart and motivated, but turned off by viewbooks that feel too serious or strive too hard to project prestige. Our approach: friendly, energetic, and direct. To make sure we hit this tone successfully, we gathered reaction to multiple creative concepts from both current students and prospects visiting campus with their families—an invaluable step.
STARTING WITH AN UNDERSTANDING
OF THE AUDIENCE
As a foundation for creating materials that speak effectively to prospects and their families, Kelsh Wilson starts with focus group research. Careful questions zero in on the college’s reputation, on factors that lead students to inquire, apply, and enroll, and on reactions to sample publications in a range of styles. We then build our strategies based on what we learn—and have learned on dozens of other campuses over the years.
In the world of admissions communications, if you don’t express your key messages in the form of strong photographs, you’re not really expressing them at all. For Oneonta, Kelsh Wilson created a viewbook in which the most important content takes the form of captions paired with carefully planned, full-page photos. Headlines are phrased as friendly instructions, and major themes (like “hands-on learning” and “internship opportunities”) are bold-faced to pop. Little “scribbles”— notes and quotes overprinting the pictures—add an extra hook.
Facts and Figures
The Oneonta viewbook makes some of its most important points with numbers—a visual display of impressive statistics. Like students in focus groups on other campuses, Oneontans reacted with interest to these kinds of figures. However, they also made clear they are a discerning group—unimpressed by “soft” data like results of alumni satisfaction surveys. Numbers can sell, but they have to be meaningful.
Making the Academic Case
How do you take the story of academic quality beyond broad generalizations about class size and committed teaching? In Oneonta’s case, the key was to highlight each area of study individually with a brief set of bulleted bragging points. It’s a particularly effective approach for prospects like Oneonta’s who are highly focused on their intended majors.
Expanding the Conversation
Good admissions communications give students what they want. Topping the list is information on internships and careers, residence halls, and views of campus. Another goal, however, is to get prospects thinking about topics most might not be but should—especially when doing so positions your institution to advantage. For Oneonta, international experiences, research opportunities, service learning, and a location in a great college town all ranked as marketable strengths deserving their place in the presentation.
A Lasting Partnership
Kelsh Wilson’s collaboration with SUNY Oneonta dates to the mid-1990’s and now spans five successful packages of admissions materials. The advantages of this long-term partnership are significant. Kelsh Wilson begins each project with an already solid understanding of the college, its strengths, its market, and its audiences. We then work to deepen that understanding. With each new round of publications, the message has evolved, positioning Oneonta for stronger and stronger applicants as it has emerged as one of New York’s most selective public institutions.
It is increasingly important for schools to carefully structure how they craft their messages—both in the content of those messages and the consistency with which their story is told.
To learn more about how Kelsh Wilson can assist you, contact Fred Wilson at 267.765.0700 x701.