You’ll hear from LaNelda Rolley who is the CMO at Nevada State College.
You'll hear her talk about:
[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.
[00:00:30] Host: Welcome to episode eight of filling seats. In this episode, you'll hear from. Lynn Nelda Raleigh, who is the chief marketing officer at Nevada state college. You'll hear her talk about the most effective channels for her school, which surprisingly or not print or email. How she's using targeted social ads for different populations and what growth has looked like for her school let's meet Lynn nelda
[00:00:56] LaNelda Rolley: I started out, with plans of becoming the next best white house correspondent. I have a degree in journalism and mass communications and had worked in radio and TV as a news reporter and anchor for a number of years. And then I decided to take what I thought was going to be a brief detour into state government public affairs, but that instead opened my eyes to marketing.
[00:01:18] LaNelda Rolley: And tourism. And so with that, I went back to get my master's degree in marketing management and tourism development from New Mexico state university. And that led me to open doors and tourism development, marketing, and higher education. and so with the higher education part, I led marketing and communication efforts for division at UNL.
[00:01:39] LaNelda Rolley: The university of Nevada, Las Vegas for 12 years. And then after that, I was blessed to become chief marketing officer at Nevada state college in Henderson. And so here I am to.
[00:01:50] Host: Tell me more about your current role, the institution that you work at and more about what you do.
[00:01:55] LaNelda Rolley: . So my official title is the director of the office of marketing and events at Nevada state college. And So I've been here for four years and primarily what I do is provide leadership and oversight for our comprehensive college marketing communications and events. and the typical director role things of.
[00:02:14] LaNelda Rolley: policy, budget procedures, that type of thing, but, where my heart is, is really what the marketing and advertising, developing the message, for our external contracts and activities, prospective students, the community at large, because we're in a situation where. we're a relatively young college.
[00:02:30] LaNelda Rolley: We turned 20, next year. and so we have a sole purpose, initially of working to increase the number of, teachers and nurses, primarily in Southern Nevada. but we've grown because Nevada state college is such a wonderful resource for first-generation. Where they may have not have been successful in larger universities and larger classrooms.
[00:02:52] LaNelda Rolley: They love Nevada state college for our small classroom sizes our professors are the instructors. We don't have teaching assistants and graduate assistants. And so that leads to mentorship and other wonderful things the student receives.
[00:03:05] Host: You mentioned CMO and then director. So I'm assuming that technically you're a director, but you're the highest ranking marketing person on campus. what's the size of Nevada state college. And what kinds of degrees and programs do you all have?
[00:03:20] LaNelda Rolley: So we have over 7,200 students, 5,000 on campus, because we do have?
[00:03:27] LaNelda Rolley: an active dual credit program,with, some of the area high schools. so we have. Over 60 degrees, majors and minors that we do offer. and it ranges from nursing education to visual media, biology, criminal justice.
[00:03:42] LaNelda Rolley: we are four year, public college. We're one of the fastest growing, in the nation and the fastest growing in Nevada. So we primarily offer bachelor's degrees. but we're starting to offer master's degrees. Our first master's is in speech language pathology.
[00:03:57] Host: I'm curious about the office of marketing and events. So typically marketing and events, is very commonplace within the admissions office, but being at the university level, what kinds of university-wide events are you overseeing.
[00:04:12] LaNelda Rolley: Our signature events. So it ranges from commencement. we have a new president, so we did the presidential inauguration. we have our welcome weeks that we've worked in partnership with student life to do along with spirit week. since we don't have. Athletic teams. spirit week is our homecoming week.
[00:04:30] and so then we other do also do other high profile events. We've been fortunately building new buildings on campus. And so,that means grand openings and topping off ceremonies and things like that. So those are the types of events that we.
[00:04:44] Host: That's a really interesting, because typically what you see at universities is a lot of central marketing offices don't have a lot of interaction with current students, ironically. And so with having that event arm, that gives your staff and your office, this opportunity to really get in front of current students and interact with them.
[00:05:06] LaNelda Rolley: Yeah.
[00:05:06] LaNelda Rolley: it is. And it's very rewarding, but it's also challenging because we're a relatively young office and small office. So our office was created about, six years ago. and so we've seen explosive growth, with our students. Kept up staffing wise. And so we have a dedicated team of nine. and fortunately we've gotten two new positions approved, but we do a lot with what we do.
[00:05:33] LaNelda Rolley: And so we like to say that we're small, but mighty, but we've got a lot going on. So with that, we do have an opportunity to work closely with. Students, the student life organization as it's creating events and then, student, organizations that, when we work with their faculty advisor to help them with events as well.
[00:05:51] Host: Tell me a little bit about your office's relationship with. The enrollment or admissions folks. And how involved are you with, strategy and initiatives?
[00:06:01] LaNelda Rolley: very involved. so we have an agency of record, that we work with for, our marketing and advertising. So we work on an 18 month. But we get with admissions and recruitment to look at the numbers, what they're hearing out there in the field, as they're talking with prospective students, so we can make sure we're using the right words to attract.
[00:06:24] but then we also of course use SEO. And so some of our other marketing research, that we marry with, but to make sure, We reach the right target audience. we talk with them about geo-fencing and making sure we're using the right. The zip codes to reach students, where we're our recruiters are.
[00:06:42] LaNelda Rolley: And then we also want to make sure the message carries forward because we're not only working with those first-time students, but also the transfer students coming in from the community college, who may want to continue their degree or who took a break and they want to get back in and get their four year degree.
[00:06:57] and so we have those two primary audiences.
[00:07:01] Host: In terms of enrollment marketing, what channels do you find to be the most effective?
[00:07:06] LaNelda Rolley: where we get the greatest return, Instagram, and video along with our display ads. we're seeing something promising with Hulu and those types of channels. that's emerging, but, in terms of impressions and click through rates, it's Instagram video and display banner.
[00:07:25] most people, when I asked that question, they say email and postcards.
[00:07:31] LaNelda Rolley: Oh,
[00:07:32] Host: I'm so curious, is this organic Instagram growth or paid ads? I need to know so much
[00:07:38] LaNelda Rolley: , it's paid social most, most definitely, w with our audience and primarily gen Z, I hate to generalize, but, we see far greater return. Our challenge for our students is that they don't read their emails. and so we also use, texts, SMS. we reach them that way as well. But what we find is we have to use multiple points, , touch points, but email, direct mail.
[00:08:03] LaNelda Rolley: Secondary, our primary is social online, to reach the prospective students,and their parents to a certain degree as well. Because, when we look at our data, to see how it's coming along with the highest converting audiences, it's households with teens and parents with teens,
[00:08:19] Host: Tell me more about ads on streaming platforms, because I've also never heard a school doing this.
[00:08:27] LaNelda Rolley: it's about our brand awareness because being 20 years old, we're not as well-known as some of the other institutions that have been in Nevada,for quite some time. And so what we find out is that doing this, and we're just beginning to, to do that, because,it's emerging as a tool to consider, but where we are in terms of brand awareness, we think that's important.
[00:08:47] LaNelda Rolley: So we're not spending money on traditional networks, but going to where people. Viewing and that's what streaming. And so it's with brand awareness. And so we want, people to be more aware of Nevada state college, who we are, what we offer, and then it's easier since they're already online, then for them to CR display banner ad at some point, and then to do the search.
[00:09:12] LaNelda Rolley: So that's where we're seeing that connection with,
[00:09:15] Host: That's amazing. What are some recent marketing wins or successes that your school has had for enrollment or recruit?
[00:09:22] LaNelda Rolley: Our biggest marketing win is that we have not seen a decline in enrollment. as you're talking with, institutions across the country, you probably see that more are facing a decline, maybe a small decline, but we've actually seen an increase, going from fall 2019 to fall 2021. knowing that we've had.
[00:09:41] pandemic in between there. And so we've actually seen a 16.2% increase in full-time equivalent enrollment, during that time. and so the other thing is that, we did see a modest, drop, in spring 2022, so when we look at the total, I think that's the greatest marketing wins and success for our school is that, we're continuing to see enrollment increases because again, we have,prospective students identify with us and that were smaller class sizes being taught by professors having undergraduate research opportunities that they may not get at other institutions.
[00:10:19] LaNelda Rolley: And ,we have a good number of students support services to make sure they're successful in the classroom. what are some things that you all struggle with in terms of mark?
[00:10:29] LaNelda Rolley: Of course brand-awareness, because the challenge for us is that people get confused because we're in Nevada state college. the community colleges here drop the community out of their name. And so they're also a college. So people don't understand the difference between the community college as a two year and then Nevada state as a four year.
[00:10:47] LaNelda Rolley: So we're hoping to change our name to a university. We'll still continue with the intent, as a four-year public colleges. Be known as a university. And so it's that brand awareness because also our acronym is NSC. one of the community colleges here is CSM, college of Southern Nevada. So people get the two confused because they could say, oh, in a C that's just CSN backwards.
[00:11:10] LaNelda Rolley: But anyway, that is a great challenge. the other challenge for us is that. We need to increase our conversion rate from inquiry to application, in that enrollment funnel. And so that's what we're working on right now, because even though we're young and innovative institution, we're still not fully utilizing CRM customer relationship management, as we could be, that can really address that.
[00:11:34] LaNelda Rolley: So once we get from. Application to admittance that conversion rate is good. It's just that we're doing great advertising. We're just not converting those into applications as high as.
[00:11:44] Host: What are some. Things that you are hoping to do to combat that
[00:11:49] LaNelda Rolley: I've asked him and I hope the budget wizards will agree with me is that, rather than using the. Not to take away from the enrollment, a CRM, but I would like to have a marketing CRM. And so that way that will allow us to work directly to make sure that inquiry gets the information that he or she, they need.
[00:12:10] LaNelda Rolley: So that then they would be,Encouraged to, apply to Nevada state college. Once they apply, then we forward it on over to admissions and recruitment and they can do everything possible to get them admitted, but we really want to increase the number of applications, going from an inquiry to, an application
[00:12:28] coming from outside of higher ed and having a lot of experience outside of higher ed,what were some of your biggest revelations that you had about higher education
[00:12:39] LaNelda Rolley: Not treating prospective students as a customer. I think that was the biggest revelation for me, because it seemed more like they wanted to put them in this little basket where the kind of special, because we know you want to come here and get your little degree and we want you to go off and be successful, but there's still basic customers.
[00:12:59] LaNelda Rolley: You have to talk to them to find out what their interests are and provide them, Things based upon that interest and find out their needs. And I think, I was surprised that was, taken for granted a lot, in the overall, higher education structure. I think recruiters, probably. Do it best because they're frontline.
[00:13:18] LaNelda Rolley: And so they work in it more, and see how important it is. But for those who are making the decisions, based upon budgeting, and marketing to a certain degree, I think it was a big revelation to me that they didn't view,, prospective students as customer. And have that customer experience, key in mind.
[00:13:35] LaNelda Rolley: And you look at some of the websites. You can clearly see that they're not really focused on the customer journey, to get the students where they need to be
[00:13:42] what do you think that other schools are not doing a great job with.
[00:13:48] I don't want to say they're not doing a great job but they may be, missing an opportunity with.
[00:13:54] sometimes we do the spray and pray, you just put it out there and pray you get the right thing.
[00:13:59] I think. if we did a better job of custom targeting the audience,that would be good for higher education.
[00:14:06] Host: . What are some things that you think other schools are doing a great job?
[00:14:09] from some of the conferences I've attended a pre pandemic, but, and then doing online, I think some colleges and universities are doing a great job?
[00:14:19] LaNelda Rolley: with social media. and videos, and there are several out there are, who are doing a great job with storytelling,on their website, personalizing it, to where the student can relate better.
[00:14:30] so you were saying that you have an agency of record that helps with, marketing and advertising. a lot of schools, they may not have that and they're just like dabbling in it themselves. And I'm curious, how many.
[00:14:41] Host: Ads or targeted populations. Do you think you have live at one time? because I think that's kind of part of the mystery to schools is that they don't realize how many variations it takes to be able to reach them.
[00:14:57] LaNelda Rolley: Yeah. So we start out with an we'll just use the video carousel that we use with our, online display ads. And so going from it that following emission, sinker recruitment, tell us those key words , and key things that you're hearing from prospective students. And then we develop the creative and we make sure that our images are reflected.
[00:15:17] of our students because we're very diverse. and we, lean toward more women than men. And so we want to make sure that we use actual photos in our advertising so that people can relate and know that this isn't a stock image or stock video, that we're using. And so that's been helpful.
[00:15:35] LaNelda Rolley: So we'll have about, four to five. Ads in the carousel for the display ads. And so then we'll run them, targeting. 17 to 24 and then 25 to 45. and then parents of those, 17 to 24, audiences, and then again, looking at the diversity in gender. and so we'll run those and see which ones are getting the best results.
[00:15:59] LaNelda Rolley: And so with that, we'll narrow that carousel down and have those ads play more. but again, we're. Doing more targeted. And so we're not just sending it out to everyone. we, we do geo fence and zip code, based advertising.
[00:16:14] Host: What do you think the future of higher ed marketing will?
[00:16:18] LaNelda Rolley: Wow. what do I think the future is? I think we're going to see,A transformation of websites, and, not kissing up the student bridge, but, having the campus tours work so well. And unfortunately it took the pandemic to help more universities realize the importance of that. So I think, We're going to see a transformation of websites to where it is focused more on the student journey, to get the information they need.
[00:16:46] and then humanizing it, if you will, I don't want to say personalizing it, but humanizing it to where we use the language the students understand. I think oftentimes we get caught up in using, higher education lingo. so we want students to know. How talk like us instead of us speaking like the students.
[00:17:03] LaNelda Rolley: So they understand. And so I think that's going to happen as well as part of that transformation.
[00:17:08] Host: That was something that I used to do. When I worked at a university was worked with financial aid to help them. Communicate to students in a way that wasn't like, this very financial aid jargon, especially, that's extremely intimidating for first gen students.
[00:17:25] Host: And anything involving money immediately raises people's blood pressure. And so if you can communicate and just this like very plain easy to understand language it just helps so much,
[00:17:36] LaNelda Rolley: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And . That's an excellent example is financial aid because it is so.
[00:17:40] LaNelda Rolley: intimidating. just the FAFSA, that's intimidating alone. And then being first gen students, they don't know the process. And so you gotta be able to help them through, because the reality is we have a young student worker and, he was talking about.
[00:17:53] LaNelda Rolley: He doesn't have to take out any loans, to pay for college because of the scholarships and other financial aid we had available. he's basically getting a full ride scholarship for four years to get us degree. So when you can explain it to them, that way, it's oh, yeah, easy thing.
[00:18:09] Host: What is an app or a marketing tool that you could not live with that.
[00:18:14] LaNelda Rolley: Geo-fencing and short videos because the video, captures their attention. And then when you can do a short video and get the information out there that. Does so much more than trying to put it in the words that.
[00:18:28] LaNelda Rolley: they have to read And then. geo-fencing to help with the targeting. So you make sure that, you're using your dollars effectively because we don't have a lot of dollars to spend.
[00:18:36] LaNelda Rolley: And so we want to make sure we get the most out of it.
[00:18:38] Host: If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
[00:18:42] my siblings used to give me a hard time because I always asked why. So then when I majored in journalism and worked in journalism, the Y. Continued to be important. Unfortunately, as I, grew in my career and did different things, I stopped asking why, as often. And so I would go back and tell myself, keep asking why, because especially when you're in marketing, why is key, when you start managing leading people, especially in a team environment, why is very important?
[00:19:14] Some university presidents. Don't like to keep hearing you ask why, but it helps you do your job better and understand the customer, and why you're doing things and to stay focused on the real reason. you're doing marketing.
[00:19:26] thank you so much for coming and being a part of the podcast today. It was so great speaking to you.
[00:19:31] LaNelda Rolley: Thank you.
[00:19:31] LaNelda Rolley: for the opportunity. I liked talking about marketing and I love student bridge.
[00:19:39] Host: thank you for listening to the filling seats podcast, hosted by student bridge. If you'd like to connect with this episode's guest. Check out the show notes. If you enjoyed this episode, please 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.
[00:19:59] Host: Visit student bridge.com/podcast. Thanks for listening