Reach for the stars

It’s easy to get caught up in the immediate tasks of running your unit – especially during a pandemic, when the day-to-day often feels like all we can manage. But with the “new normal” constantly in flux, it’s more important now than ever for your unit to be engaging with your audiences and reaching for the stars…all five of them! 

In the world of market research, moving the needle from a four-star rating to five calls for knowing your audience, and asking the right people the right questions. For instance, in creating a survey for a U of I unit, I might reach out to current students in the college and also to alumni with the same question: How well does the U of I meet your expectations? 

This provides data sets for two key points along the student journey. If, for example, alumni present more favorable ratings, we need to explore why students feel the U of I does a better job of meeting expectations after graduation than they do during the program. Other questions the surveys might explore include how satisfied a student is with the U of I, is this impacted when the U of I is not the student’s first choice, or what happens to satisfaction scores the further along a student is in a program. 

Branding is all about the ways we can help shape people’s perceptions of the university, so another good question to ask is “How do you describe the U of I?” Looking at the key words that bubble to the top (such as Innovative and Diverse) helps us understand how our audiences see us now, while challenging us to identify areas where we might be falling short in our messaging. (For instance, if “impact” and “inspiration” are two of our seven brand powers, why aren’t those messages getting through?)

Knowing your audience, understanding their experience, and acknowledging what drives their perceptions of their college (and the university as a whole) are essential goals. Having that information allows you to make changes to ensure that you’re providing the tailored experience necessary for our students, faculty, staff, and alumni to be innovative, impactful, inspirational, and to leave a legacy.

My colleagues and I in the Office of Strategic Marketing & Branding can help you understand more about your audience, their journey at the U of I, and what it takes to reach all five of those stars. Feel free to send me an email to start the conversation.