Episode #24

Marketing a small school and pivoting for Gen Z

Featuring Lauren Mauldin Director of Communications & Marketing at Mercer University School of Law
Marketing a small school and pivoting for Gen Z
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In This Episode

You’ll hear from Lauren Mauldin who is the Director of Communications & Marketing at Mercer University School of Law. Mercer is a small private school located in Georgia.

You'll hear her discuss:

  • how they convey their small school feel through virtual visits
  • how their strategy is changing to appeal to Gen Z
  • some creative strategies for meeting the increasing content demands with less resources
Lauren Mauldin

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Host: You're listening to filling seats, the state of enrollment, marketing, and higher ed. Hosted by StudentBridge. In this podcast. You'll learn, what's working to grow shape and sustain enrollment. At colleges and universities directly for marketers thought leaders and ed tech innovators, because anyone can design a brochure, but not anyone can fill seats.

[00:00:27] Host: Welcome to episode 24 of filling seats. In this episode, you'll hear from Lauren Mauldin, who is the director of communications and marketing at Mercer university school of law. Mercer is a small private school located in Georgia. You'll hear her discuss how they convey their small school feel through virtual visits.

[00:00:51] Host: How their strategy is changing to appeal to gen Z and some creative strategies for meeting the increasing content demands with less resources. Let's meet Lauren. Have only been in higher education for three years now. prior to that, I worked for non-profit for about five years working in community development and neighborhood revitalization. but cuz of the nature of non-profits, you kind of wear a lot of different hats. And so one of the things that, that included was marketing some of the programs that I led.

[00:01:25] Lauren Mauldin: And so that's kind of what led me to, Mercer. University School of Law, with my marketing background,and I've been here for three years now.

[00:01:32] Host: What was the transition like from the non-profit world to higher ed?

[00:01:37] Lauren Mauldin: . I would say the nonprofit in higher education world is very similar, . You're working with limited resources, you're working with limited staff capacity. and ultimately, it's very similar because it's a mission driven organization, nonprofit, very mission driven.

[00:01:53] higher education. Very student driven and student focused. and There was definitely a transition, because, I had obviously my, college and graduate school experience to go off of, but kind of seeing behind the curtain of, an admissions funnel and alumni events and alumni engagement and all the little pieces that kind of go.

[00:02:16] marketing a law school or, and that's just a unit of a larger university, right? it was definitely a transition for sure.

[00:02:23] Host: Tell me a little bit more. About your current role, what you do, and then how you would describe your institution.

[00:02:30] Lauren Mauldin: I'm the director of Communications and marketing here at. Mercer Law School. at the moment I am a mighty team of one woman. so anything that marketing communications, falls under or anything under a marketing communications umbrella, is under my purview. a large part of that is enrollment market.

[00:02:50] Lauren Mauldin: social media, updating our website, , managing our web content, alumni relations, so working with, event publications, alumni communications, as well as advancement. So we're about to celebrate 150 years at the law school. and so that's something that I've been working on is working with our advancement team and some of our consultants media relations, media inquiries, that kind of thing. so it's a lot. However,in a few weeks I'll be able to, onboard a new employee. So we just created a new position for an assistant director of communications and marketing.

[00:03:23] so I'm really looking forward and excited about that.

[00:03:27] Mercer University is located in Macon, Georgia, which is the heart , of Georgia, right smack dab in the middle of the state. And actually just recently we were featured,on the Jeopardy Square what's the fourth largest city in Georgia?

[00:03:42] Lauren Mauldin: Home to Mercer University. That would be Macon. and so Mercer University is. Public liberal arts university in its law school. where I work was founded in 1873. we are the oldest accredited.

[00:03:55] Lauren Mauldin: Law school by the American Bar Association in the state of Georgia. We have the oldest, continuously published law review journal, our Mercer Law Review in the state of Georgia. and we have 6,600 plus, Mercer lawyers and alumni throughout, the country and across the globe as well.

[00:04:14] Lauren Mauldin: so what's. Great about Mercer in general as a university and as a . Law school is, the Mercer community is very close knit, very collaborative. the relationships that students form here are the relationships that they will carry on for decades,

[00:04:32] Host: , how many students are you typically enrolling in an entering class?

[00:04:37] we're really intentional about keeping, our class sizes small because that kind of lends itself to,the learning environment here in law school, but also really lends itself naturally to, a collaborative community.

[00:04:52] Lauren Mauldin: Students have direct access to professors, to librarians to staff, and so it really creates, Culture,of a small, close knit, really collaborative community here at the law school. So in light of that, we really try to keep, our entering class to about 135 students. Now, as we all know, that can fluctuate.

[00:05:12] Lauren Mauldin: Some years it can be more than that. Some years it could be less.

[00:05:15] Host: tell me a little bit about your enrollment goals. we really are intentional on keeping. the law school as a whole, small, that's really important.

[00:05:25] Lauren Mauldin: So at any given time, we have a total enrollment here at the law school of anywhere from 380 to 400 students. And so because that intentional, that intentionality of keeping our, class sizes small, that's the culture of not only. The law school, but Mercer University as a whole, but obviously with given years, like there's always room for growth.

[00:05:49] what technology is making the biggest impact for your school in terms of enrollment marketing?

[00:05:57] so I really think the video view book that we have through Student Bridge is really unique. not only is it an enrollment marketing tool where we can, drive students, and especially when we're doing our email campaigns or even our, social media links, we can drive people and prospective students to our video view book, which is a wealth.

[00:06:21] content testimonials from students, faculty, staff, even alumni of. What the community here at Mercer Law School is really all about. And I think as a content piece that's really valuable. But then on the back end, seeing that data to see, okay, what are people most engaging with in terms of content?

[00:06:46] Lauren Mauldin: What video are they watching the longest? What days are they engaging the most? Where are they coming from? A lot of that data can really. Inform decisions on other content that we produce, whether that's an email or a, a text message or social media post. It can really help guide some of those content decisions from an enrollment marketing standpoint, just on analyzing the data.

[00:07:13] Host: In terms of communications that go out to prospective students, who is creating and sending the majority of those, is that you? Is that someone else on the end? Team,

[00:07:27] right now it's primarily me. for the past two years we have, retained some in marketing, enrollment, consultants who help us with some of our content.

[00:07:36] Lauren Mauldin: , we've really worked with him for two years and gotten us to a point where we're really, . Rock and,and enrolling with our, content campaigns. but at the moment, I'm primarily, , building out those emails, building out some of that content, in conjunction with the admissions team who might come back from the, from a trip on the road and they're like, Hey, we got a lot of questions about our clinics and our externships.

[00:07:57] Lauren Mauldin: Do you think maybe we. , add that to our email campaign, so to kind of address some of those questions.

[00:08:03] Host: what marketing channels do y'all rely on The. Most or are most effective in reaching prospective students?

[00:08:10] Lauren Mauldin: So we use a lot. of email? when I say a lot, we're not bombarding students with an email weekly. but we definitely have a very robust prospects and inquiries campaign, where we really. Emphasize the value of Mercer Law School that, we actually practice what we preach.

[00:08:30] Lauren Mauldin: We are a small, close knit, collaborative community. we're not like you're, we, If you think of law school as a super cutthroat competitive environment, that's not really what the law school is here at Merc. we have students who genuinely care about each other and wanna see, each other succeed and collaborate.

[00:08:48] we have approachable faculty, we have a small faculty, to student ratio. And using those value propositions of what makes, Mercer Law School unique is important.

[00:08:58] Lauren Mauldin: We use thank view, a lot specifically with our admitted student messaging.

[00:09:03] Lauren Mauldin: thank you. Is. An email platform, that's primarily focus for sending personalized videos,it's kind of like paperless posts. . So you open up your email and it's like, an animated.

[00:09:18] Lauren Mauldin: Envelope. You open it up and then your video comes out and it's like your thank you card. and then your video plays

[00:09:25] I think their interface with using video content and,customized, tailored messages, and sense is really, really a great function.

[00:09:35] Lauren Mauldin: And, for our admitted students, we see tremendous, open and click and engagement rates on emails or even text messages sent through. Thank you. I think it's partly because while it is either an email or text message, it's a little, the interaction of opening your envelope and your video comes out is something that's kind of unique.

[00:09:53]

[00:09:53] Host: So

[00:09:53] Host: let's talk a little bit about visits. Where do you place the importance of visits in person and or virtual in your overall strategy?

[00:10:02] Lauren Mauldin: Exceptionally important obviously apply is the number one call to action you want people to apply, but with our email campaigns,the main call to action through that is visit.

[00:10:15] so we really want people to visit because our, data and our entering student surveys have shown when people come to campus, it definitely makes a difference in their overall decision on whether or not. Wanna become a Mercer lawyer. and so it's exceedingly important, that we really push visits and especially, and it's hard too.

[00:10:38] Lauren Mauldin: The past three years have been really hard to Track and measure that, Because of Covid and, we've offered an in person and a virtual option. And the virtual option is literally just a stabilizer and a student ambassador walking around with their phone on Zoom, And and that's something that we'll probably always have and always offer.

[00:10:57] Host: what do you feel like is the value that someone gets out of an in-person visit, and how do you convey that in a virtual environment?

[00:11:05] so I think the value of an in-person experience is you as a prospective student can really start to visualize yourself here, right? at the law school. We have a really strong sense of community here among faculty and students, student staff. And so I think it's important to have a visit because when you're here you're gonna see that and it's gonna be really evident.

[00:11:33] Lauren Mauldin: say you've received all this messaging from us, talking about the that community, talking about this student life. And when you get here, You can see. Oh, okay. Like I can see that actually, in practice. and we can coordinate for somebody to sit in on a law school class or to meet a professor or, our dean has a very open door policy.

[00:11:56] Lauren Mauldin: We can even, pop in and you can meet the dean. I think the benefit of an in person. Visit is just so important. but obviously there are limitations to that. If you live in Louisiana and you wanna come visit Mercer Law School, you might not, have the resources or the time to, trek 10 hours, east. And so the virtual option really gives you the opportunity and the access.

[00:12:22] Lauren Mauldin: I think the ways that we have been able to convey that sense of community through a virtual lens is, each of our tours are led by a student ambassador. And so that student can share with a perspective student, kind of their own personal experience. anytime I see a student.

[00:12:40] Lauren Mauldin: Doing a virtual tour, I always wave to them and then they wave back and they're like, Hey, how you doing? And I think that kind of shows hey, there's somebody walking the halls of the law school and somebody's making a point to, to say hello and, and conveying that, Oh wow, people really , know students' names,

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[00:14:37] Host: So,there are about 200 law schools. I think it's incredibly competitive. It's probably also very difficult to differentiate. So what's something that y'all are doing differently?

[00:14:49] there's a lot of law schools. Absolutely. I think what makes Mercer Law unique is that we're small and, we have less than 400 students. And this is really a strong. Environment for you to get a practical legal education that's going to allow you to be ready to practice from day one on the day that you graduate.

[00:15:10] but along the way, you're gonna develop those relationships and those friendships that will last a lifetime, not only with fellow classmates, but also with professors, with staff, and even alumni. Alumni love to come back to campus. as we're starting to kind of open back up, there's lots of opportunities for, that alumni and student engagement.

[00:15:29] Lauren Mauldin: Our students wanna see that. Our alumni wanna see that. but I think, it's one our community that really makes us, unique. And then, as an extension of that, that community isn't just with you when you are a student, but that carries. When you become a Mercer lawyer and you join our alumni network,

[00:15:47] Host: . what is something that your school or your team, and I say team, knowing that you're a mighty team of one, struggles with.

[00:15:54] Lauren Mauldin: ,we're starting to get more generation. Z students, right? understanding that what worked from an enrollment marketing perspective three years ago is not going to work down the road as we get more and more,application cycles of students who are in this generation Z.

[00:16:17] and that's looking to more, video content shortens and sweet and to the point, not a lot of copy,better website metrics and website analytics so they're not waiting five seconds for this webpage to load, or they're just gonna abandon you.

[00:16:30] and so I think that's really kind of. A challenge going forward that we're starting to see. but I think that's gonna persist and grow over time for sure.

[00:16:39] Host: Who do you follow or learn from

[00:16:42] Lauren Mauldin: The Facebook group, higher ed, Social, because, they are, have been a tremendous resource, especially as I transitioned into law school, sphere of, Something comes up and like searching in the group to see if something else has happened, that somebody else had dealt with and seeing what was there since.

[00:17:00] there's also a law school, marketing and communications professional Facebook group that's exceptionally helpful. that's a great resource of, just colleagues at other law schools. Sharing questions, sharing Hey, is anybody else struggling with this? Or has anybody seen this?

[00:17:17] I would say those two have been really good resources. but from a general marketing perspective, I have a Blankest account, which Blankest is an app that, it's like short, digestible kind of key takeaways of books, anything. business and leadership and marketing, to like history and biography in 15 minutes and on average 15 minutes.

[00:17:40] Lauren Mauldin: And so you can listen to it or you can read them. and so I would say, that's where I get a lot of my inspiration and,resources for marketing and for professional.

[00:17:52] Host: What do you see for the future of higher ed marketing law, school marketing, marketing in general?

[00:17:59] I think we will continue to see the need for personalization and tailored communications and marketing to students. you can't really send, blanketed emails anymore, but really being intentional and using, tools.

[00:18:20] Lauren Mauldin: Like slate or other CRM programs to really tailor, if somebody indicates they're interested in a law school sphere, they're interested in criminal law, then being sure that they're getting content specifically targeted to them that's about criminal law or, the work and the activity that we're doing at Mercer Law School that's related to criminal.

[00:18:45] what I increasingly hear on this podcast is that, people see more personalization, more content, more video, all these things more, more, more. But they're also saying that they're struggling with less.

[00:18:58] Host: People less bandwidth. Under-resourced, you're a team of one. Do you think that there will be this kind of breaking point where the schools that are getting ahead or meeting the numbers, making the class are the ones that are investing in more people, more resources for marketing and then the ones that will fall behind are the ones that are not, you can't just do more, more, more with less, less, less.

[00:19:27] Lauren Mauldin: I think you're absolutely right. one of the main cases for support. on, my justification for needing an additional, staff member within the marketing and communications department here at the law school was, I need help creating content.

[00:19:43] Lauren Mauldin: We have a plethora of content here at the law school. We have so many phenomenal stories that we can share, but I'm only one person. And sometimes, some weeks like I'm solely focused on enrollment, marketing and social media gets to the wayside. Or I'm focusing on this big alumni event that we have.

[00:20:03] Lauren Mauldin: The website is going to have to take a back burner. I think it's important to really. Check in and make sure leadership and administration checking in, making sure that,marketing and communications is, well staffed, well trained, and have opportunities for further advancement and professional growth.

[00:20:25] but also that, there are the opportunities and the outlets for. For staff to create that content because yeah, those demands are only going to increase as time goes on. I think it is important to, recognize the value of marketing communications professionals, especially from an enrollment perspective. and to allow the freedom and kind of the flexibility to. Maybe think creatively on other ways that you can work on getting some of this content, right?

[00:20:55] Lauren Mauldin: So whether that's hiring a student worker, having an intern, preferably a paid intern, or, working with somebody who's maybe part-time or outsourcing that with a local marketing agency. So even if it's not a, full-time staff person. Being open and willing to explore alternatives and options to help collect and gather that content.

[00:21:23] so that, it's not all put on one person or, a few individuals and these demands, and this added pressure of having to step up to the plate from a marketing and communications standpoint to collect that.

[00:21:36] Host: What is an app or a marketing tool that you could not live without?

[00:21:40] Lauren Mauldin: I'm really at heart, a graphic designer, and so I could not live without the Adobe Creative Suite. Illustrator is my go-to, as well as InDesign, Photoshop. don't get me wrong, Canva definitely has its place on a quick graphic.

[00:21:56] but I think having the, Adobe Suite like that absolutely makes my life. Easier for sure.

[00:22:05] Host: If you could go back five to 10 years and give yourself advice, what would it be?

[00:22:09] don't be afraid to change careers. and,if there's something that you're leaning to towards and it speaks to you, don't be afraid to go after that. even if it's not something in your field, but you have the experience that you could absolutely do that.

[00:22:23] Lauren Mauldin: Go for it. and in addition, I would say, definitely, evaluate. frequently what your priorities are, personally, professionally, and make sure that you have boundaries in place that you can maintain those priorities, both, for your overall wellbeing, your mental health, but also for your personal and professional growth.

[00:22:47] Host: if someone wants to connect with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

[00:22:51] Lauren Mauldin: The best way would probably be through LinkedIn. it's Lauren e Mauldin.

[00:22:56] Host: . thank you so much for interviewing with me today.

[00:22:58] Lauren Mauldin: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. This was great.

[00:23:00]

[00:23:03] Host: This is the Filling Seats podcast, hosted by StudentBridge, your one stop shop for easy and engaging enrollment solutions. If you're tired of snory-telling, and ready to start storytelling your way to better visits and better enrollment, visit studentbridge.com.

[00:23:21] Host: To connect with this episode's guest, check out the show notes. If you enjoyed this episode, leave a rating and review and don't forget to subscribe. For more information about the podcast or to let us know, you'd like to be a guest visit studentbridge.com/podcast. Thanks for listening!