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Not Quite Digital

University Business, September 2012
Postcards promote a Presbyterian College  microsite that can be personalized via Facebook.
Postcards promote a Presbyterian College microsite that can be personalized via Facebook.

As some colleges and universities sprint into the digital viewbook model, others are tiptoeing into a new model that bypasses the traditional print viewbook for other millennial-friendly approaches.

Presbyterian College (S.C.) launched a personalized “My Blue Pride” microsite in February that, when entered via Facebook, is personalized with random Facebook photos, friend names, and other info. The project sprang from focus groups with current students. “We asked them how they get information and what they found helpful,” says Deborah Thompson, vice president for enrollment management and communications. Although students like consuming and controlling information electronically, they explained they often became distracted or discouraged when they couldn’t find what they were looking for.
Thompson and her team determined the key pieces of information prospective students wanted—academics, clubs and campus life, and career possibilities—and contracted with Hobsons to develop a microsite focused on those questions.

The college’s marketing team promotes the site through personalized postcards and email messages, and then analyzes how many prospective students click into the site and where they go. “More students are going to the microsite than our admissions homepage, which tells me we hit the mark,” says Thompson. The school plans to enhance the microsite during its three-year recruiting cycle to maintain students’ attention.

In addition to promoting the site via postcards, Presbyterian shares it via a quarterly print magazine.

The College of William & Mary (Va.) ditched its print viewbook in September 2011, but instead of replacing it with a digital viewbook, the college mailed prospective students The ampersandbox, a box of 15 cards. Each card features a word pair, playing on the ampersand in the college’s name, such as near & far and pomp & circumstance.

The flip side details how William & Mary epitomizes the pair. Recipients are encouraged to submit their own ampersand words and photos, which get displayed in the “Your Sandbox” tab on the project’s website.

A parallel effort at William & Mary entailed a fresh, streamlined website that provides additional depth.

A strategic focus on the school’s website may be a smart move and may yield more bang for the buck than a digital viewbook, says Stephanie Geyer, associate vice president at Noel-Levitz. That’s because some higher ed institutions have not yet optimized their websites to provide a high quality experience for visitors. And, Geyer notes, Noel-Levitz’ July E-expectations Report shows millennials still crave traditional sources of information, with guidance counselors and brochures topping the list of most-used resources for prospective students.