In an increasingly competitive market for students, Bluffton is finding new ways to tell its story.
That story begins with the word "values," which the university is using to distinguish itself in marketing materials introduced this fall. These new materials include both a print and an interactive, online viewbook and a new-look "admissions zone" website with easier-to-access information from mobile devices.
Prospective students are also receiving information through new recruiting strategies, including more faculty involvement in the process and recruitment for specific academic departments in which students indicate interest.
The Bluffton message continues to grow from four enduring values—discovery, community, respect and service. With the new materials and strategies, "we're trying to frame those values in a way that attracts more students," says Ron Headings, vice president for enrollment management and marketing.
Other "invaluable characteristics of Bluffton," he says, have been added to the mix through research by Creosote Affects, the Maryland marketing firm that helped develop the new materials. In addition to the academic and co-curricular experiences that are part of a Bluffton education, Creosote identified a campus community whose members treat each other with integrity and where students are supported and challenged to stretch beyond their comfort zone and try new activities, he adds.
Another key ingredient, he points out, is the personal attention that students receive from Bluffton faculty. Students benefit not only from course content, but from personal attention to critical and creative thinking, problem solving and other lifelong learning strategies.
Bluffton's new recruiting materials translate these core values into provocative yet simple questions that get people thinking, he explains, citing those asked on the cover of the new viewbook—"Can you afford to live by your values? Can the world afford it if you do not?"
If prospective students are intrigued by, and engaged with, those kinds of questions, "that's the kind of student we're looking for," the vice president says.
The interactive, digital version of the viewbook provides quick access to the university's message on computer, tablet and mobile device—for "a generation that has grown up with computers and mobile phones," he says. QR (Quick Response) codes have been added on other printed materials to link to electronic devices, meaning that a smartphone scan of the QR code on a postcard, for instance, can connect the user directly to the interactive viewbook.
The electronic viewbook links directly to the "admissions zone" of Bluffton's website, which represents "a major step up" in simplifying prospective students'—and parents'—access to desired information about such topics as majors, tuition and financial aid, Headings says.
Potential students and parents are also asking more detailed questions about the kinds of jobs that are available to graduates with degrees in particular areas, he points out. As one response, academic departments have been asked to compile lists of alumni with "success stories" from interesting and varied careers.
At the same time, interested faculty have received recruiting tips, including emphasizing their respective departments' strengths and the importance of creating personal relationships with prospective students.