DePaul’s marketing boosts annual enrollment

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To keep the enrollment up, DePaul’s Enrollment Management and Marketing office has devised a plan it thinks sets them apart from the other city universities. 

More than 20 other colleges in the city are in tough competition with one another to compile those graduating seniors, so to keep up the standard rate, DePaul went about it through a specialized process.

Through research of a target audience and how best to reach them, DePaul looked at the information and resources available to determine how and where to best achieve the goal of assembling interested students.

A process that involved testing campaigns with target audiences is only the beginning, according to Bridget Dore, director of advertising and digital marketing.

Dore and her team created a brand-new campaign this summer to set in place in September. Its main purpose utilized the theory of data science, which is an in-demand skill set for current college students in the industry. By working with campaign partners and DePaul’s broad experience, the goal was to elevate DePaul’s standing as a university within the market and as a whole.

“We wanted to highlight how students can truly gain greater perspective in data science through DePaul’s unique multidisciplinary approach,” Dore said.

The results were a success.

Sophomore Cassandra Kendall, originally from Washington D.C, planned to attend a theater school. And although DePaul is not as well-known in the beltway, Kendall felt the marketing initiatives DePaul presented to her helped seal the deal on her decision to enroll. She is now in DePaul’s program for theatre management.

“I didn’t know too much about DePaul’s values and ideals until I came for orientation, but I really enjoyed the emphasis that was placed on accepting the diversity of the students on campus,” she said.

The marketing team reached out to prospective and current students to ensure the message got across and in the end, the campaign generated interest in data science programs, as well as increased the overall perception of DePaul.

DePaul’s two main marketing goals are to increase enrollment and the university’s brand awareness, according to Dore. The school’s main focus was to promote the Catholic, urban and Vincentian character.

In 2013, the school enrolled 24, 414 students. Enrollment increased from 65 percent in 2009 to 67 percent in 2013, with 34 percent as students of color and 6 percent international. DePaul’s diversity is a key to promoting different types of campaigns, Dore said.

Dore’s marketing team has created two campaigns that correspond with incoming students versus the general community.

“The general community receives a message that is more closely tied to our brand message, while potential students receive data-based messaging on why DePaul University may be a good fit for them to explore further,” Dore said.

The Distinctions campaign was created as a way to increase awareness for students about the outstanding professors who bring their outside knowledge and experience into the classroom, Dore said.

“We strive to promote those from around the world who are experts in interesting industries and files of study,” Dore said.

The other initiative is to speak to potential students about the benefits of adult and graduate programs.

To create brand awareness, DePaul’s focus is to advertise up to three campaign initiatives per year about the different schools, colleges and programs to offer. While the office declined to disclose how much they spent on the campaigns, they are aware of how the efforts are coming across.

“We regularly test new messaging and tactics in order to reach our target audience effectively and efficiently,” Dore said. “We run ads across all platforms in digital, social, mobile, Web display, search engine marketing, as well as radio and outdoor advertising.”

As a way to follow up and see exactly how the enrollment went, Dore said the office performs personalized follow-up communications.

When Kendall had narrowed down her choice to two schools, with DePaul being one of them, her final decision was made based on the picture DePaul painted of The Theater School.

“I was pleased with the information they gave me,” Kendall said. “Everything I received gave me a pretty clear picture of what my time here would be like, unlike some other schools that I found to be deceiving.”

During the research process, Kendall had to do some searching before she discovered DePaul, while at the same time “most people in my area go to school in state.”

“Very few make it over to the Midwest, so I can see why it’s not of the strongest interest to advertise on the East Coast,” Kendall said.

Kendall has had success here in the first stages at DePaul, with realizing how important it was for her to be in the city for college.

“Through visiting other schools, I realized my need for a thriving social atmosphere and a look into the future to see how much of an advantage it would be for me as someone who is in theater,” Kendall said.

Her time at DePaul has changed her fears about coming to a new place.

“The school doesn’t feel so big,” Kendall said. “One thing that scared me about coming to DePaul was being at such a large school where I didn’t really know anyone, but Chicago has felt like home to me from the first time I visited last year.”

Her confidence in the theater program may be attributed to the success of what DePaul’s marketing initiatives presented to her,  but it also stems from the ideals and values DePaul presents as part of its overall mission.

“I came from a school that was predominantly white and although everyone was fairly open-minded, I never felt like people’s values could be put to the test in a place that wasn’t very diverse and engaging with people of all backgrounds,” Kendall said. “I think DePaul finds a pretty good balance between being a Catholic institution while allowing the freedom for students to engage and embrace things that are important to their own lives.”