By Angela Sieler
Digital Communications Specialist
In 2017, we hired EducationDynamics to do a Post-Traditional and Graduate Student market analysis. Based on the recommendations and feedback from their analysis, we created a website strategy for 2018-19. To better meet these priorities, we reorganized our office. In my new role as the Digital Project Manager, I will now manage the day-to-day operations of the Siena Heights web site (sienaheights.edu). I will also direct faculty, staff, and outside vendors to design and produce web content for site improvement and market relevancy.
No one can deny the importance of our university website. The website makes us credible, enhances our reputation, and supports our brand. Using Google Analytics, I can tell you that in one week alone, our website has nearly 7,500 visits, with 50% being new visitors. Using a product called HotJar, we can identify usability issues by watching recordings of real visitors on our site as they click, tap, move their cursor and navigate across pages. This also helps us to identify on which page and at which step prospective students are leaving our site. With 90% of our revenue coming from enrollment, our main goal with the site is to entice prospective students and guide them on a path to application.
For the past twelve years, we have worked with our web partner Human Element to continuously improve and bring new value to our website. This relationship gives us access to their entire team of professionals including web developers, software engineers, user experience designers, front-end designers, optimization strategists, and a/b testing experts. My new role would put me working closely with Human Element to continue to improve and maintain the sienaheights.edu website.
My personal goals for the website include:
Please continue to submit your web requests to sienaheights.edu/project and Doug will assign it to either Jeff or I depending on the scope of the project. And as always, if you have any feedback or concerns about the website, feel free to reach out to one of us here in Marketing.
By Doug Goodnough
Director of Marketing and Communications
More than a decade ago, Siena Heights made the decision to begin an Online Program. It was not an easy one, especially since the idea of offering college courses online was a very foreign concept at the time. Concerns about delivery, academic fraud, quality and interaction were all hurdles that had to be cleared. However, Siena Heights was one of the first private institutions to successfully develop its online reputation and portfolio.
And that work has paid dividends. SHU has been ranked nationally for five consecutive years by the U.S. News and World Report, and has been the top program in Michigan for the past two. In 2018, Siena Heights is tied for 23rd in the nation. As the director of Marketing, my job is to let as many people as possible know about it.
We currently have online students from more than 30 states and even a few countries. So, how do you attract new students into the program, especially ones from states like California, Illinois and New York?
The answer has been digital advertising. For the past few years, Siena Heights has invested in paid search marketing. Ever "Google" something on the Internet? Some of those search results that come back have a space called "Paid" or "Sponsored" advertising. The idea is to bid on "keywords" that people looking for an online degree might enter. And the higher the bid, the higher up on the page your ad would appear in those results. The hope is that people will "click" on your ad, fill out an inquiry form, and then the recruitment process can begin.
This fall, we took digital advertising to new "Heights." Partnering with Advance 360, an online digital marketing company, Siena Heights is expanding its efforts to recruit students into our programs. While paid search is still a component, we are also using display ads on a network of web sites (see example above) that target potential students based on their web usage. Ever order something online from a site like Amazon, and then magically see ads for a similar product/service follow you around when you surf the web on your phone? Same concept.
Also, social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn are advertising platforms that can target potential prospects using demographic information. We are utilizing this strategy as well.
And the results are promising. We used a digital media advertising strategy to market our new Online MBA program, and we were able to meet our enrollment goals for the very first cohorts in January. Also, our undergraduate online program also met its goals for the Winter enrollment cycle, and visits to our main web site, sienaheights.edu, have increased.
We are just getting started. The hope is the significant investment we are making in digital media advertising will keep filling the recruitment "funnel" for those programs and more. And months from now, those sustained messages and campaigns will result in more met enrollment goals.
"That's the Siena Effect" we are working towards!
If you wander the Adrian campus of Siena Heights University you are bound to see beautiful works of art around nearly every corner. Take a stroll to our science building through the ground floor entrance and you will see the newest completed work, a large, lovely mural taking the space of 2 walls and representing what Siena Heights University stands for. It displays the three words every student at Siena should strive to be, "Competent - Purposeful - Ethical." Patterned behind these words you will see a deconstructed version of the Siena Heights University seal, a huge part of the history of the school. I will be talking about the process that Angela Sieler, with the help of myself, her intern Skylar Keith, went through to create this beautiful representation of Siena Heights University. this process lasting upwards of a month and a half but usually only being worked on on Mondays and Wednesdays when I was in the office to help.
Like any other work you have to start with the basics. In the image above you sill see rough sketches for the mural on the two walls. Placing things where they will roughly end up and getting down the basic concepts and ideas of the mural. This step is just for getting ideas down on physical paper, it is not necessarily what the final product will turn out looking, along the way many little changes were made from this original ideas. Many of the elements sketched her were the PVC signs you will see on the mural and not what we later decided to paint.
In this image you will see the basic elements of the mural, ideas for the background, basic patterns and pieces of the SHU seal. Nothing at this point was nailed down yet, this was all creative experimentation, but it was the building blocks that got Angela to the background pattern of the deconstructed seal with stylistic circles.
Here is the real first digital representation of what was planned for the final product of the mural, still at this point nothing was definite and it still continued to change drastically. Here you can see a compact pattern, very clustered. This pattern was a bit too much on the eyes and distracting us from the focal point of the words.
Now you can see that the pattern is more spaced out, more breathing room given to the elements and more stylistic circles added between them to keep the flow. This pattern is less distracting to the eye and we find is is easier to just focus and read the words then continue on to viewing the background, nothing is fighting for your attention.
You can see that the original design for the left wall was kept for the digital representation of the design but it was later altered in the process of creating it.
In the above two images you see the beginning of the physical process, started by painting the walls a solid goldenrod color this process was done over the course of two days to allow for the first coat to dry and another to be applied. The only area primer had to be applied was the metal heater on the left wall seen in the photo directly above.
After the paint was dry Angela used a projector to trace the shapes of the words, a difficult task when done on brick. Here we can see the projection of the image on the currently blank wall.
After tracing the words on the wall it was found much to difficult to trace all of the pattern elements on it as the projector didn't cast a large enough image. All of the elements were traced onto paper and cut out then manually placed where they needed to be on the wall and traced again.
After another days work we see that the basic shape of the words competent and ethical have been painted and purposeful is almost fully complete with the need of minor tweaks and fixes. That would be a process lasting up until completion with spots of pain landing in the letters or smudging from Angela's and Skylar's hands.
The next day the word ethical was finished and all minor adjustments currently needed on purposeful were made. Competent received a second coat of paint and was left to fry until the next day it was worked on.
Here you can see the background pattern being manually placed and traced onto the walls, we then painted them with a lighter yellow to contrast but not drastically, exactly like you can see in the digital photos.
This picture is after we put the first coat of paint in the pattern elements and finally finished the word competent with some minor adjustments to be made later. You can see that some of the elements here are darker than others but this is due to the fact some had already received a second coat.
Finally the pattern on the right wall is completed right down to the little stylized circles, all adjustments made and mistakes fixed. We were ready to move on and finish the other wall.
Here you can see the pattern and the white line painted across the left wall. The line needing a few adjustments to straighten it out and another coat to make it more opaque. At this point we are past our half way mark and nearly done with the entire mural. With the painting nearly complete our excitement for the finished product grew the only thing left was the acrylic letters and PVC signs.
At this point the painting is complete on both walls and we have started placing the items on the wall. These acrylic letters were the easiest item to apply to the wall, the back peeled off and stuck right to the brick then the front peeled off to reveal the glossy shine of each letter.
This is it! Above you can see the final product, all the PVC signs hung most of them roughly an 3/4 of an inch from the wall braced with PVC blocks behind them. This was the hardest part of all, much trial and error went into getting these signs to stay on the wall. We started off by using PVC glue to glue two, about 1/3" x 4" x 4", blocks together making them about 2/3" x 4" x 4" in size. Then we used liquid nail to glue the PVC blocks to the sings, for this we didn't want to use the PVC glue because we were told it could eat away at our softer PVC signs. The liquid nail sat for seven days as was directed then we hung the signs on the wall using Industrial foam mounting tape on the back of the PVC blocks. The two larges signs fell from the wall within an hour one just needing more tape and the other the liquid nail gave out on. We brought them back to the office and started gluing the one back together, this time using Gorilla glue. This sat overnight and then we took them back too hang. Finally the work was completed.
October 26, 2016
From time to time, I have college marketing students reach out and request an "email" interview about my job and responsibilities. Allow me to share my responses from a recent request by Coastal Carolina University sport management student Kaytlin Martinez:
What educational steps did you take to reach this level in your career?
Actually, my background is as an English major. I was originally in journalism as a newspaper editor for nearly 20 years, and a college internship was actually more instrumental in my career choice than the classroom. My journalism background has served me well in this higher education marketing position.
What type of entry-level jobs would you recommend for someone wishing to reach your job?
Obviously having a journalism background can help, because you understand how the media thinks/works and can tailor your messaging/strategy. You are used to writing/messaging to specific audiences. The ability to work under deadline pressure is also a bonus. I would say having experience in event marketing and project management is also a big help. So jobs like marketing manager and even in the area of sales probably would prove helpful.
What are the biggest day-to-day problems you face within your responsibility?
Being in a small organization, being a manager and a “doer” can be very challenging. I manage an office of four full-time staff, as well as a web management company that develops our web site. I am also the primary public relations/communications person, and those are duties I also have to perform as well as managing my people and my area. Juggling all those responsibilities sometimes can be a daunting task.
When interviewing, what stands out to you in a resume?
Experience in the field. Do you have experience in higher education, or a related area? Education/degrees are OK, but I want to know if you’ve gone above and beyond your education to succeed in your field. To be honest, it’s very hard to judge candidates solely from their resumes. But I want to see initiative.
What type of qualities or abilities would you say are most important for this job?
Self-managing skills such as accountability, the ability to work with a diverse group of people, and being a team player are at the top of my list. Do you show up to work on time? When I give you a project and a deadline, does it get done correctly and on time? Do I have to remind you about it? Can you solve a problem that you did not create? How do you handle conflict/adversity? Answer those questions correctly, and you’re hired.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?
The people whom I work with. Being part of a successful team is a very rewarding experience. Accomplishing tasks together gives you a real feeling of pride. Having the right people “on the bus” makes all the difference.
How do most people become involved in this industry?
Good question. Most come from either a media or advertising/public relations background. But truthfully, people can come from a variety of directions. With social media emerging as a real marketing channel, people who can learn to use it to their advantage are emerging in this field.
Are there too many or too few people trying to be involved in this career path?
Tough question to answer. I would say it is a “supply and demand” profession. I think there are many who are majoring in marketing. On the surface, marketing looks fun and relatively easy. You design posters, build web sites, organize events. But you also have to work “behind the scenes” on such things as enrollment and fundraising goals. And the technology is constantly changing. What was a successful marketing channel six months ago may not necessarily be one today. You have to constantly be looking at new trends and channels.
What causes people to leave this particular job/career?
Burn out. Much like journalism, the work cycle is truly never ever done. You complete one recruitment/academic cycle, it begins again. And higher education in particular has some people who can be difficult to work with. The diversity of the job, however, can pull you out of a rut from time to time.
Which seasons of the year are you the busiest?
Fall and spring, which are usually are strongest recruitment cycles. However, it truly is a year-around effort. Summers are a bit slower usually.
How would you describe the culture of this industry?
Competitive. You are constantly competing against other institutions and organizations for students and dollars. Enrollment and fundraising drive our University, and those are the two efforts that we have to focus on daily. There is always something (or someone) new walking through your door every day.
How many hours do you typically work during your busy season?
Truthfully, I’m not a big believer in working beyond 40 hours a week. I don’t expect that from my staff, and I try to keep that schedule myself. Sometimes it is unavoidable with special events and projects, however, I try to pepper in some time off when things slow down. With the recent changes to the federal overtime laws, that will basically be mandated anyway. Our institution cannot afford much overtime pay, and I believe that work/life balance must be kept to keep people productive. One of my favorite sayings is “work smarter, not harder.” I try to stick to that principle.
Doug Goodnough is the director of Marketing and Communications at Siena Heights University. Contact Doug at email@example.com or 517-264-7141.
August 29, 2016
If you have been wandering our site and stumbled upon this page, welcome. This is my first attempt at a (semi) regular post outlining the life and times of a small university marketing and communications director.
I'll attempt to educate and inform those reading this post why marketing is needed in higher education, and how we at Siena Heights go about "doing what we do." Are we always right? No. Do we always hit the mark? Probably not. But in my 10-plus years at Siena Heights, I've learned a little bit about this thing called marketing, and I'll attempt to share some of that knowledge with all those who enter this post.
OK, here we go...
Last spring, I presented at a university workshop on how faculty and staff can market/brand their own programs. I asked them to participate in the following:
Take the 7 Second Challenge…
“You only have seven seconds to arrest the attention of your prospect — make every one count!”
- Ken Bowen, web content expert from Marketing Experiments
The Challenge: Describe your program/office in a seven-second message, keeping in mind that your reader knows nothing or very little about your subject. Things to consider:
- How is your program/office unique in a way that matters to your audience?
- What are your top selling points?
- Use Twitter as your guide (140 characters)
As you may imagine, it was quite difficult for most to successfully complete the challenge. Boiling an entire program - or career - down to a few words or sound bytes can be painfully difficult, even for the most seasoned marketer. But that's the challenge most of us in marketing face daily, especially those who have responsibilities that include managing a web site or social media. The reality is that prospective students (especially those in the 16-to-18-year-old age range) want their information NOW, and quickly. Dawdle, and they are gone.
Are you willing to take the 7 Second Challenge to describe yourself, your program or area? If you are a faculty or staff member at Siena Heights University, you will eventually be asked that question by someone in my office.
Remember, you are the Siena Heights brand to someone!
Doug Goodnough is the director of Marketing and Communications at Siena Heights University. Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-264-7141.