All posts by Brian Connelly

NAGAP 2018 Presentation Recap: Prospect Lifecycle Retrospective

I recently presented with our friend and client, Michel Frendian, at the 31st Annual NAGAP conference in New Orleans, LA. Michel is the Dean of Enrollment Management at Erikson Institute in Chicago. Over 100 people attended our session on Analyzing & Improving the Digital Enrollment Journey.

During the presentation, we covered strategies for leveraging technology to dive deeper into automation and audience targeting. Erikson Institute recently underwent a Slate CRM integration and Michel shared a fresh perspective on their experiences. We also took the audience through an actual prospective student enrollment journey, from inquiry through application.

The audience was engaged, sharing information from their experiences and asking questions throughout the session. Some key takeaways included:

  • Craft a digital media mix that builds brand awareness, generates high-intent prospects and focuses on strong re-marketing efforts.
  • Use a segmented approach to audience targeting and prospect nurturing to reduce lead-to-app-to-enrollment melt.
  • Dynamic content, especially video, is a hot topic.
  • Look to leverage alumni testimonials on landing pages and visual storytelling through up and coming platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Recap the NAGAP 2018 Presentation

Want more information on what was shared during the session? Check out the full presentation on SlideShare. Have questions about what digital strategies, tactics and channels work best for your programs? Shoot me an email, I would love to continue the conversation.

CUPRAP Recap: What Digital Natives Need from EDU Stories

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting at the College and University Public Relations and Associated Professionals Conference in Lancaster, PA, with my colleague Brittney Dunkins. CUPRAP is a voluntary organization of communications professionals from colleges, universities and independent schools dedicated to advancing the understanding of higher education and enhancing the professional development of its members.

Our session, Achieving the ‘Aha’ Moment: What Digital Natives Want from EDU Stories, shared insights on what we know about the next generation of prospective students and the digital world we live in. We discussed how social media is constantly evolving to meet the demands of modern users. In 2017, LinkedIn and Twitter launched in-platform video. Spotify, Reddit and Snapchat all rolled out self-serve advertising to help marketers connect with engaged consumers, mostly targeting the 18-34 demographic. All of these changes are occurring based on how digital natives are spending time, consuming media and interacting with brands.

Strong EDU Brand Storytelling

Education brands that are winning are generating compelling content on the right channels for their audiences. Here are six examples of exceptional EDU storytelling and lessons to be gleaned from each campaign.


1. Choose quality over… quality.

You don’t need state-of-the-art equipment to produce amazing content. The depth of your content is way more critical than the quality of the actual video.


2. Control your narrative.

Partner with the right brand ambassadors on campus to spearhead your campaigns.


3. Be authentic.

Show stories of real life, real people and real conversations.


4. Be succinct.

Equate video to your elevator pitch.


5. Views are not the sole benchmark for success.

Are you reaching your target audience?


6. Don’t do it just because everyone else is doing it.

Choose to make videos based on what makes sense for your overall marketing strategy and strategic campus vision.


The most important part of creating a video is to tell a true story that can be repurposed for your audience. Want to learn more about video storytelling? Contact us to get in touch, we’d love to help.

Discovering the Diamond in the Data with Northwestern Engineering at AMA Higher Ed

It’s been an eventful (pun intended) event season here at Converge. From the Google Premier Partner Event in NYC to the EMBAC National Conference in Seattle, we’ve been all over the nation getting to talk to some of the brightest leaders in EDU. Last week, we headed south to Atlanta for one of our favorite conferences, the American Marketing Association (AMA) Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. We’ve had the pleasure of attending the conference since the start of our company back in 2011 and have enjoyed growing along with the event each year.


AMA 2017 brought together representatives from great brands like Google, Coca-Cola, UNC Kenan-Flagler, University of Arizona, Virginia Tech, American University, HubSpot and more. The sessions varied but one major theme was looking outside the norm, and disrupting static practices to increase yield. I had the opportunity to catch a couple of great presentations in between networking at our booth. A few of my favorites included:

  • University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) who presented on Leveraging Alumni, Academic Colleges, Departments and a Limited OIA Budget to Yield Record Results from a Milestone Year.
  • Leaders from Virginia Tech and Gonzaga presenting on nuances between Athletic Brands vs. Academic Brands.
  • Michigan State University sharing best practices on user-generated content and Stanford Engineering on content strategy.
  • And of course, the presentation with our partner Kyle Delaney, Executive Director of Marketing at Northwestern Engineering and our fearless leader, Ann Oleson.

Using Data to Inform, Create and Evaluate Digital ROI

Over the past year, our team has partnered with Northwestern Engineering to market nine graduate programs in the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University. We were thrilled to present a session sharing insights from our partnership. The Diamond in the Data focused on the ways that we are using data to inform, create and evaluate digital return on investment.

Kyle provided background on Northwestern Engineering’s history with digital strategy and cross-departmental communication to frame up the conversation. The presentation share historical information on their needs and how using data helped them create a strategy that took their digital enrollment efforts from good to great.

Northwestern Engineering + Converge: The Diamond in the Data from Converge Consulting

Couldn’t make it to the session at AMA? Check out the slides on SlideShare. Have questions about digital marketing strategies for higher education? Tweet us @convergeorg or contact me directly – I’d love to continue the discussion.

Programmatic or Problematic: Is Programmatic Ad Buying Right for Colleges and Universities?

Investment in programmatic ad buying in the US may be nearing its peak, but spending continues to rise. By 2019, programmatic ad outlays will reach $45.94 billion, accounting for 84% of all US digital display ad dollars. It seems to be all the rage, but is it right for you and EDU? 

What exactly is programmatic advertising and why is it attractive for EDU?

Simply put, colleges and universities use a demand side platform (DSP) to decide which impressions to buy and how much you want to pay for them, while publishers use a supply side platform (SSP) to sell ad space to brands. These two platforms are then matched up in real time. Using first and third party data, you can reach the right audience in real time, in the right context with the right message. You choose the price point that is right for your budget and goals. 


Why is it attractive for advertisers?

Programmatic has been evolving at an exciting rate to include not only display, but modern versions of more traditional media like digital radio. Utilizing streaming mobile applications will give you the ability to pinpoint your ideal audience and serve them school-specific information while they’re engaged with their device. And more dynamic uses promise to be on the horizon like out-of home, voice, TV, native and video ads. 

Brand awareness has always been a key factor when students choose a school, and programmatic display offers a level of reach and impact unlike any other medium. In a competitive market, it’s even more important for universities and colleges to have a larger footprint than they did in the past. Programmatic display offers a centralized and efficient way to do that.

It seems like a good time for traditional EDU buyers to get on board. Early adoption and budget commitment of programmatic has been slower for EDU, so there are opportunities to position yourself ahead of the competition. 


So why is it so scary?

Perhaps EDU’s lag in early adoption is well warranted. We all know that your brand is extremely sensitive, and while programmatic has been a buzzword, it’s also be perceived as a bit of a buzzkill. 

Google is currently policing itself after a series of questionable placements on their programmatic network. This has prompted media buying giants like Proctor and Gamble to question the integrity media buying supply chain. Issues like paying for space you’re not getting, “spoofing”, misleading publishers masking their url as more reputable websites and placements on websites with questionable content have buyers worried.

If you represent your college brand, it’s crucial to not only protect your yield, but also the reputation of your school. Here are three best practices to mitigate risk and yield great results.


1. Find the right situation for you.

You have options when it comes to buying programmatic. Find partners and publisher networks that place a premium on fraud protection and inventory quality.

Ryan Burch of Cybba notes, “the types of media you can access programmatically are getting more complex, at the same time that the media buying tools are getting easier to use”.

Reputable publisher networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and Twitter are applying a huge amount of effort towards quality control. Using an experienced partner, familiar with the nuances and new opportunities will help you safely navigate the programmatic ad market place.


2. Own your audience.

Use audience segmentation based on personas, and type of engagement, to create more custom messaging. The ability to identify your ideal audience is key. Focus on building personas around students at the top of your enrollment funnel. Create messaging that can be applied to prospects in that phase of consideration. When it comes to choosing publishers, look for those that don’t guess, but know your audience.

Larry Mlawski, Manager of Programmatic Channel at LinkedIn, understands that his platform, while not cheap, gives you the benefit with of robust personal data targeting.

“With LinkedIn you know you’re hitting the right audience and the benefit is that you can use one platform to target prospective students through their consideration lifecycle. For example, you can track and engage them offsite on websites like ESPN, then serve them ads on LinkedIn based on their self-reported education data.”

3. Understand your results.

Look at your current display ad efforts, along with industry benchmarks, to set KPIs to match and exceed. While the key metric with any display campaign is CTR, you want to be sure that traffic is legitimate. A good way to measure any campaign is matriculation vs. results to ensure that your programmatic campaign is yielding leads. It’s also important to monitor increases in site visitors and mentions on social media as a part of ROI to match the amount of effort and spend through programmatic. 


Have other questions about the right-fit digital advertising solutions for colleges and universities? Contact me directly or tweet us @convergeorg. We’d love to continue the discussion and hear your thoughts on programmatic advertising in EDU.

New Opportunities for Education Marketers with LinkedIn Matched Audiences

LinkedIn matched audiences for education

In a move that levels the retargeting playing field, LinkedIn has enabled website visitor, account and contact retargeting. This gives the 500-million-member professional network audience matching capabilities to rival their peer set of Facebook, Google, Twitter and Pinterest.


So what’s in it for EDU?

Saied Amiry, LinkedIn’s head of vertical marketing, shared his perspective on the update and its impact for education marketers with us:

“For a prospective student, selecting the right university is a big deal. It’s a complex decision, and aside from purchasing a home, is likely the largest financial investment that an individual will ever make in their lifetime. Website Retargeting, Account Targeting and Contact Targeting will allow universities, and their partners, to address the relevant concern of the student at the right time.”

Here are three huge opportunities for EDU marketers to consider with the update:

  1. Capitalize on website traffic.
    Enhance user experience (UX) with customized communication touchpoints based on the pages that prospective students have visited on your site. Use the right content to effectively nurture highly-engaged prospects based on what’s most important to them. This will help reduce waste of messaging and increase lead, application and enrollment yield.
  2. Speak to your prospects on the professional network, in a professional context.
    Build a customized audience by securely uploading your student lead email lists or connecting with your contact management platform. Big advantage here: LinkedIn owns the professional networking space and will have access to both personal and work email addresses. This gives EDU marketers and recruiters better success with business address match rate.
  3. Target feeder companies and schools.
    Run account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns, powered by LinkedIn data. Securely upload a list of target companies and/or schools to match against over eight million Company Pages on LinkedIn. For EDU, this will be effective to reach industries that align with your programs, alumni and stakeholders.


Expected Results

Over the past six months, LinkedIn conducted a successful pilot program for Matched Audiences with over 370 participating advertisers and 2,000+ active campaigns. The extensive pilot program delivered high-ROI and lowered costs. On average, customers using Matched Audiences saw:

  • 30% increase in click-through rate (CTR) and a 14% drop in post-click cost-per-conversion with Website Retargeting
  • 32% increase in post-click conversion rates and 4.7% drop in post-click cost-per-conversion with Account Targeting
  • 37% increase in click-through rate (CTR) with Contact Targeting


Getting Started

Go into the campaign in your Campaign Manager that you’d like to apply the email targeting list to. Click on the “Audiences” tab to see this screen following at the top of the list of targeting facets.

LinkedIn matched audiences for education

Click on “Create an audience” under “Target a list of accounts,” and you’ll be greeted by the following dialogue box where you can name your email list. Select the option, “Match based on a list of email addresses,” then upload your CSV.
LinkedIn matched audiences for education

Also, should you want to apply a negative (exclusion) list, simply select “Include” and change it to “Exclude” on the list targeting option, which will ensure that no email address in that list will be allowed into your targeting.

LinkedIn matched audiences for education

CSV requirements

For the sheet to work, it needs to meet the following requirements:

  • Format must be .csv.
  • First column must be labeled as “email” with one email address per row underneath.
  • Once you hit “Next,” you’ll be greeted by the Account Lists screen. Navigate back to your campaign targeting, and find the “Target a list of accounts” option like in the screen shot below. Your list is now created, so click the “See full list” option to find a list of the audiences you’ve created. Select the one you want to use, save the campaign, and the targeting will be applied.
  • Notice that it can take up to 48 hours to process your list, so don’t be worried if the list shows a size of <300.


Ready to test out Matched Audiences?

Check out this article from LinkedIn for more tactical insights on account targeting. We’re interested in hearing how this new functionality is working for you. Send me a note with questions or comment below to keep the conversation going.

What’s New with LinkedIn University Pages?


The long awaited merger of LinkedIn University pages and Company pages is finally here. According to a December 12 email from LinkedIn’s product management team, you can now preview the changes to your newly refreshed University Page. LinkedIn made the official announcement back in September and subsequently transitioned all existing University pages to read-only.

Over the next few weeks, LinkedIn will start rolling out the pages to LinkedIn members. Here are the need-to-know facts and insights for higher education marketers:

What’s new with LinkedIn University pages?

  • You can post sponsored content from your University Page.
    Up until now, you could only sponsor content from your company page. This is big news for schools struggling with a centralized presence on LinkedIn.
  • Expanded analytics dashboard with more actionable insights.
    Centralized content coupled with enhanced analytics will help you better measure the impact of your marketing and improve ROI. Note: this change is “coming soon” according to LinkedIn.
  • A refreshed look and easier to manage content.
    Dedicated administrative experience, which includes in-line editing and more robust content/data options (i.e., General School Information, Students & faculty, and Financial Aid statistics) on the page.
  • LinkedIn will automatically merge your Company page into your University page.
    You’ll have one piece of real estate to share between alumni, faculty, marketing and job recruitment. The good news is they will also merge all followers and content. So basically, your new merged page is a Company page with the look, feel and functionality of a University page.
  • Only admins will be able to post updates to the new University page.
    This used to be open to members including students, alumni and staff.
  • Updated tools for alumni engagement and outreach.
    A version of the Alumni Tool (allowing you to Find Alumni by fields, locations, companies, etc.) will stay, the notable Alumni section has been removed.
  • You will no longer be able to edit your old University Page.

Get your team prepared for the change.

The key to success will be communication and organization between the various stakeholders at your institution. This is a good time to reposition your program/school/department to get the exposure you want and have a seamless transition. If you don’t know already, you’ll want to find out who the primary admin is for your current University page. You can also reach out to your LinkedIn Account Executive or find more on information in the Help Center.

Converge Consulting is always available to help you strategize. Contact me with questions on the transition and best practices regarding LinkedIn and all of your digital marketing needs.

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Goodbye Minimums, Hello Self-Service for LinkedIn Sponsored InMail


Sponsored InMail is joining the growing suite of self-serve LinkedIn products available through LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager. Up until now you needed to commit to $25,000 in overall LinkedIn marketing spend on an IO, and $5,000 per InMail sent. There are now no overall spend commitments with LinkedIn and no minimum spend per InMail sent.

As Higher Education Marketers you now have the advantage.

Target only the audiences you want.

In the past you were forced to send/spend a minimum of 5,000/$5,000 per InMail. That meant even if your desired audience targeting generated a delivery of $2,000, you had to expand targeting to use the product and meet a $5,000 threshold. You can now be as selective as needed and reduce waste.

Test more, only pay for what works.

Without minimums you can cost effectively segment audience, messaging and timing of delivery at lower cost points. This allows you to test and reinvest in what is working, and then trim out what is not.

Regain control and visibility of your campaigns.

Realtime reporting through the campaign manager means not waiting for results. In the past campaigns were reported by a LinkedIn representative at 7 and 30 days. Seeing results realtime will allow you to make faster decisions on campaign performance.

Losing minimums is great, but it’s also important to consider audience sizes and the time it takes to see meaningful results. Converge is currently advising our clients on best practices for successful InMail campaigns. Let us know how we can help?

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