To Mask or Not to Mask? Higher Ed Crisis Marketing During COVID-19 and Beyond

Heather Sumperl |Oct 14, 2020

Campus life, arguably one of the biggest selling points of college, is filled with experiences that don’t align with current Coronavirus safety guidelines: co-living, sporting events and social gatherings.

When the U.S. went into lockdown in early March, no one could have imagined that 7 months later our situation would remain largely unchanged with schools across the country at different levels of reopening, some not at all.

But, with 1 in 4 college students rating their institution’s communications around COVID as “fair” or “poor,”1 it is evermore critical to remain transparent in digital marketing efforts to set realistic expectations around the return to academic and residential life on campus.

The Challenge: Repurposed footage from pre-COVID days does not illustrate social distancing, mask usage and new safety norms.

Set the Standard

Keep things in perspective. Not all marketing materials need to be updated immediately. Students are understanding of the challenges schools are facing, nevertheless, they are asking for clear messaging about what they can expect from their college experience.

  • Update video/photo content to let students know what was shot pre-pandemic
  • Use social media to publish real-time/fluid messaging and updates
  • Centralize reopening plans on your website
  • Host live Q&A sessions about student life

To Mask or Not to Mask?

Politics have no place on the college campus when it comes to whether or not masks serve to protect students and staff. With that said, masks have quickly become a part of our daily routine and are largely expected when in public spaces.

In a recent webinar, StudentBridge asked several of our university partners if they were showing masks in their communications with prospective students. Although the majority said they were, we found that most of these communications were limited to social media channels and very few schools were proactively posting updated imagery and video on their websites.

Quotation MarksWe are not hiding behind the fact that students are wearing masks or that we are asking for social distancing, it only helps in our recruitment efforts knowing that the environment is safe.Quotation Marks2

Ben Amarone, Director of Admissions, Albertus Magnus College

During Uncertain Times, Authentic Video is Critical

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Prospective students visiting your site want to see how your school has responded and enacted safety guidelines. With this in mind, colleges need to be conscious with how they show certain environments on campus, particularly where there is a social responsibility to keep students and staff safe.

If the decision is to ride out the storm with pre-pandemic website content, incorporate messaging and disclaimers outlining measures on stopping the spread of the coronavirus on any content that may appear outdated.

As a better compromise, a team of experienced digital storytellers can help you update your online presence in the interim by offering innovative remote filming options. In lieu of filming on campus this fall, StudentBridge can leverage your existing multi-media assets to create videos for you, or we can embed your fully-edited video content.

Turn to Technology

Mask wearing and social distancing are, hopefully, temporary measures. And understandably, marketers may be hesitant to dive into a complete website overhaul given the constantly changing new normal.

Bennington College Laptop-1

Implement a technology platform that supports front-end experiences to host fluid content, messaging and virtual events.

The StudentBridge Platform gives its users access to our content management system to easily make any changes or updates as well as track data, 24/7 through our analytics dashboard.

With this new normal, photos and videos on your site will appear as outdated. Contact us today to see how our creative solutions can help upgrade your online presence to reflect the current reality.

Zeng, Julian. Infographic. Higher Education Marketing Statistics Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. 3 June 2020.


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