6 Steps for Higher Education Reputation Management

Active Listening: The Role of Reputation Management in Higher Education

With approximately 5,300 colleges nationwide to choose from, high school students have no shortage of options for higher education. And despite a slight decline in college enrollment, a majority of graduates — approximately 65 percent — still opt to pursue a degree. These facts present tremendous opportunity for universities — provided they take the right steps to stand out and polish their image online. Failure to do so costs colleges and their educators countless advantages — which they may not even realize.

In the information age, most colleges have a robust Internet and social media presence. Many even have staff devoted to communications. However, some higher education institutions don’t have the budget to maintain a full PR team. Those that do still may need help understanding the complicated, rapidly changing field of reputation management. ReputationSimple has partnered with hundreds of schools to improve their online appearance, and it can take your college’s outreach to the next level.

The Cost of Complacence       

Universities spend substantial sums recruiting the best and brightest students for their athletic and academic programs. They also shell out huge amounts to keep alumni engaged financially and otherwise. These worthwhile efforts probably will prove futile if schools don’t attend to their reputations.

Anyone who is interested in your school — whether they are considering attending or contributing in some other way — certainly will do some research. If a valuable prospect typed your college’s name into Google, what would turn up? And how would it compare to the closest competition?

Unlike K-12 schools, where laws and geography determine attendance to some degree, college students have choices. They decide where to continue their education — close to home or somewhere distant  —  and whether to do so at all. Those decisions have huge implications for every facet of higher education.

If a student is torn between two or more schools, even seemingly small factors can have a big influence. The choice could easily be swayed by what others are saying online — good or bad. If page one of search results is dominated by poor reviews, some long-ago scandal or other negative information, the university is losing both recruits and revenue.

Of all the skills ReputationSimple can emphasize to college educators, listening is arguably the most important. Colleges that don’t actively monitor discussion about the school online can’t hope to get a handle on their reputations — or respond appropriately. Bear in mind that the right response may be none at all — or a show of appreciation for those who speak in your school’s favor.

Even colleges that employ communications staff could benefit from some additional resources and training to refine their techniques. ReputationSimple’s seasoned professionals will work with select team members to give any school an edge online.

Taking Back Control   

All technicalities and nuances aside, the most important element of reputation management — for a college or any school — is being proactive. When educators allow spiteful detractors — who are usually anonymous — to drive the discussion, they’ve lost the battle for their brand. ReputationSimple is well equipped to teach even seasoned communications professionals new and effective strategies to stay ahead of the commenters — as well as address any threats that may arise before they cause lasting harm.

ReputationSimple can provide a detailed, in-depth assessment of your university’s reputation management standing and needs — a service that is also available to individuals on the college staff. Review Shield, another ReputationSimple product, can build a virtual wall around your university’s reputation, protecting it from negative feedback while also increasing the school’s number of five-star critiques.

Popular among schools of all types and sizes is ReputationSimple’s School Reputation Management Training — a comprehensive tutorial for educators on virtually every aspect of guarding and administering their online presence. During a two-day virtual seminar, knowledgeable instructors will teach the primary principles of reputation management — and share tried-and-true methods that have earned raves from hundreds of schools.

In the case of incoming college students, they are choosing their future when they are vetting universities. The school they pick will have a profound impact on the rest of their lives — from their job prospects to their networking opportunities to their career advancement potential. Every page-one search result should show them why your university is worthy of their time, talent and money.

That end is achieved through a targeted, precise combination of content creation — a steady stream of materials presenting your school in the best possible light — and search engine optimization — which ensures that flattering content always appears at the top of search results. School Reputation Management Training will cover how SEO works and the basics of content strategy. Instructors also will help educators wield the influence of social media, blogs, video and other multimedia platforms.

Participants will leave training empowered to direct the conversation about their college — rather than remain a helpless bystander.

Perception is Reality

Students used to select colleges based solely on in-person visits, word of mouth and glossy brochures. While they still rely on these means, they now have a wealth of information and data about any school available with just a few keystrokes. They not only can quickly assess whether your school has the courses and programs they’re looking for, but also whether others’ experiences with the school have been positive or negative. Where there was once an element of mystery to their upcoming freshman year, soon-to-be graduates now can log onto Instagram and see the day in the life of an actual student at their prospective college in real time. They also can check an ever-growing number of review sites to see if a particular school would be a good fit.

In these digitally driven times, colleges have a more ways than ever to reach students and stakeholders, which comes with an ever-growing amount of challenges. This complex realm doesn’t have to be daunting with ReputationSimple as your guide.

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