5 Ways to Effectively Balance Student-Work Life

Being a student and working a full or part-time job on top of that requires discipline and dedication to both work and school. Balancing school and work, while managing to have a life outside of the two can be overwhelming at times. As a current college student and employee struggling to find the perfect balance, I have stumbled across several tips and tricks that have helped me balance school and work while remaining relatively stress free.

Manage your time

It sounds obvious, but this is one of the most challenging aspects of being a student and an employee simultaneously. The first step to time management is resisting the temptation to plant yourself in front of the TV and completely relax after a long day. Set aside some time each night to do homework or stay on track with a work deadline. Google calendar, the calendar on your cell phone, or a good old fashion planner can keep deadlines in one place and help with prioritizing projects. Electronic calendars are especially useful because alerts can be set to let someone know when a deadline is approaching. When you figure out how to use your time, make it known to your boss, colleagues and professors so there is a mutual understanding of how you will be allocating your time.

Stay Organized

There is a reason that organizational skills look good on a resumé. Staying organized while being busy is harder than it seems, but it makes a difference. The more organized you are, the more likely you are to meet deadlines and ace classes. I like to use apps, websites and a day planner to keep my affairs in order. Apps like Evernote, If This Then That, and Dropbox can help you stay organized with everyday tasks and work related tasks. Evernote helps with keeping to-do lists, notes and ideas all in one place. Ifttt (If This Then That) allows you to keep all of your favorite apps, like Spotify and Google Docs, in one place. Dropbox gives users a space to keep files, photos and docs, while also making it easy to share large files with other dropbox users. There are also many apps available that can be extremely helpful for college students struggling to stay organized.

Check your emails

Even if you only work part time with your school schedule, set aside at least 15 minutes a day to check and respond to emails. This is especially important for anyone that works directly with clients. Making yourself readily available to a client can be the difference between a successful business relationship and one that fades out quickly. Boomerang, a gmail extension, is an extremely helpful way to organize your emails. It allows users to schedule an email to be sent at any time and “boomerang” an email back to their inbox after a certain period of time as a reminder to follow up with a client or colleague that has not responded to an initial email.

Strategically plan your schedule

When planning your school schedule, make sure to leave time gaps that allow you to go into work. Going into work in the morning and school in the afternoon can be a good option. I try to plan classes for a few days during the week and go into work the other days as a way to keep the two separate. Keeping work and school days separate helps me stay better organized, but it’s all about finding out what works for you personally. Try to avoid overloading particular days. While freeing up certain days may seem tempting, having extremely busy, stressful days can lead to burnout. Make sure you are not biting off more than you can chew. Check with your employer to see if and when they can accommodate your school schedule.

Leave some time for yourself

In the midst of a stressful schedule, the easiest way to stay sane and relaxed is to remember to leave time for yourself. Get your homework done early and work on those project deadlines a little bit every night. Procrastination will only leave you stressed out and burned out. Get a little bit of work done every night and follow that up with an hour of doing something you love before bed, such as going to the gym, seeing friends, or just laying in bed and binge watching tv. Finding a way to manage your time, stay organized and stay stress free can be difficult, but once you figure out what strategies work for you, balancing work and school won’t be a problem.

Shannon black and white 2 Shannon is a senior at the University of San Diego studying communications and visual arts. Working as an intern with Circa Interactive, she has gained experience in higher education content marketing, digital public relations and creating content for various clients’ social media. Shannon’s creativity and passion for public relations and content marketing has contributed to Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value. 

A Guide to Understanding Audiences and Creating Personas in Higher Education

First developed in the 80’s by Alan Cooper, a software engineer, audience personas have become a key element to any successful design program or marketing strategy. Initially created to understand how different groups of people use software, personas have evolved to help marketing and advertising professionals target very specific groups of people to deliver the messaging and content they want, expect and respond to.

In the world of higher education, it’s more important than ever to have a clear understanding of who your target audience is and what makes them tick. Competition is as fierce as ever and budget dollars are often hard to come by, so if you want an immediate competitive advantage and a way to run more efficient and effective campaigns, you must know exactly who it is that you’re marketing to. This short guide will help you get started on identifying your target audience, understanding what’s most important to them and leveraging that information to improve your marketing efforts. You’ll be able to use what you learn through this post to:

  • Inform market and prospective student strategies
  • Inform ad messaging and help to establish a common language with target audiences
  • Inform future marketing and sales strategies
  • Inform visual elements of marketing and web design
  • Create audience personas

Initial questions to ask and why

As you begin the audience exploration process, gather three to four key stakeholders to begin crafting probing questions to lead the audience discussion. Marketing, admissions, student services and an engaged faculty member comprise an ideal group of individuals to help achieve this. Each department will provide valuable insight and differing perspectives that will ensure your discussion is well-rounded and thorough.

While some of the questions you need to ask may be specific to the niche or degree area, there are tried and true questions that will help accomplish your goals no matter the program or department you’re working in. Here are eight questions to get you started:

  • What are their problems, pains, and challenges?
  • What is important to them in their personal and professional lives?
  • How do they consume information?
  • Are they active in social networks?
  • Have they previously interacted with your institution?
  • Who or what influences their decisions?
  • What sorts of images and information appeal to them?
  • Do they have the desire, authority and ability to take action?

Some of the answers for these questions may be obvious, but make sure to open up each one for discussion with your group of stakeholders. Each individual will provide a unique vantage point from different sides of your institution, and you’ll most likely find that each question will still receive slightly different answers depending on the stakeholder.

Taking it a step further

To validate or expand what you learn during the initial probing exercise, additional research is required to solidify target audiences and personas. Here are seven ideas to get you started:

  • Analyze your CRM (customer relationship management) platform or Student Information System, such as Banner.
  • Take a look at competitors and similar degree programs – what is their strategy for messaging and imagery? Can you identify who their target audience and demographics are? What can you learn from them?
  • Check magazine editorial calendars in your industry for upcoming topics that signal areas of interest to their readers and your audiences.
  • Conduct surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations.
  • Monitor and participate in social networks.
  • Read industry publications, blogs, and analyst reports.
  • Run a keyword analysis and Google Trends report for relevant topics.

Putting it all together

Armed with deep insight into your audience, it’s time to consolidate the information you’ve extracted to create a handful of very specific personas consisting of no more than five or six. A word of caution: you want to avoid creating more than a handful of personas as your targeting will lack focus and defeat the purpose of the exercise. If you aren’t able to boil your audience down to five or six personas, you’ll need to rinse, repeat and ask more questions until you’ve dug deep enough to get a true sense of who your audiences are. Remember these are audience themes, not specific people. Personas are representative of a group of people within your audience, not one specific individual per se.

Once you’ve identified your personas, it’s time to put them into action. At this point, you should have a well-rounded view of who you audiences are, the content they crave, the messages that resonate with them, what they dislike and what incentives will propel them to take action. You know how old they are, where they work, where they live, their education level, what they do in their free time and what’s most important to them. This information is especially useful when creating social pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns as you would in Facebook, for example. When marketing on Facebook or LinkedIn, segmentation is key, and with detailed persona data this process becomes much easier and significantly more effective than the typical guesswork required without them.

When building out your personas, consider this template as an example:

2016-06-10_12-27-24

Courtesy The Buyer Persona Institute

Key takeaways:

  • Personas will inform all areas of your business and are the foundation to any and all marketing efforts.
  • Involve multiple stakeholders in various areas of your institution to truly be effective in the brainstorming process.
  • Personas are generalizations of your target audience, not specific people. Use them to inform messaging, images and marketing strategies, not direct marketing.
  • Be sure to share your audience and persona findings with each department, as it could also be used to improve their services. For example, student services may leverage this to produce support systems that will help with retention.
  • Marketing on Facebook or LinkedIn? Personas are key. Use them to help carve out very specific audience segments and deliver highly personalized messaging.

 

DSC_0048 reduced 2Clayton Dean is an enrollment management, digital marketing, and business operations expert, leading Circa Interactive’s growth, development, and day-to-day operations. Clayton has successfully assisted dozens of institutions in developing, marketing, and launching degree programs from the ground up. Connect with Clayton on Twitter @circaclayton.

 

6 Ways Prospective Students Find Degree Programs Online [Video]

Online education has taken large steps towards a highly regarded and powerful industry over the past decade. Increased trust toward these types of degrees have stemmed from elite, traditional universities emerging in the online higher education market. The continued development in communication technologies and an increase in savvy online tools have cleared the air of a once cloudy online learning environment.

With this open window into higher education, the current workforce has an opportunity to expand their knowledge and gain graduate level degrees while continuing their day-to-day responsibilities. Universities are investing in professors and tools to provide top-notch education to their future students. Students are using the tools at their disposal to find the right program for their goals.

Higher education institutions are faced with the challenge of shifting from traditional marketing tactics (billboard, print ads, brochures, radio, etc.) to newer methods in order to strategically place their brand in the sights of prospective students. The competitive nature of online higher education is pushing institution’s marketing teams towards new platforms such as SnapChat, Instagram, and new video marketing tactics.

How Do Prospective Students Find Their Online Program?

Today, students pursing online degrees search for them, you guessed it, online. 67% of prospective students use search engines as their first source of information for higher education institutions, so it is more important than ever to have an active presence on major search engines in order to get your program and brand in front of potential students. The video below, created by our content team at Circa Interactive, provides a quick run through of the top 6 ways that students find degree programs online.

 

Organic Search

Organic search is the natural, unpaid search that occurs on search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). If your website is optimized for your core keywords and ranks in the search results, organic traffic is a flow of free visitors to your website. Even better, if your website is on the first page of results for a keyword (ex. Master in engineering program), you are in a good position to receive these free visits.

Fun Fact: Over 70% of users click on a result on the first page.

 

 

Paid Search

While organic search is the natural results shown when a user searches in a search engine, paid search is just the opposite. As shown in the video, paid ads appear on the top, sides, and bottom of the Google search results. These ads are shown based on the search query a prospective student used and a generally marked with the word ‘Ad.’

Fun Fact: 64% of users click on a paid ad when they’re looking to purchase a product or service.

 

 

Organic Social

Similar to organic search, organic social are the general social posts shared by individuals, institutions, or companies. Popular platforms for universities to leverage to place their programs in front of students are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

Fun Fact: 38% of users are influenced by a school’s social media engagement

 

 

Paid Social

Paid social ads are the ads you see in social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. These advertisements are a proven way to generate students for an online program. Paid social ads are able to be targeted to very specific groups of potential students.

Fun Fact: 57% of students use social media to research universities.

 

 

Digital PR

Another way to place your program and brand in front of potential students is to use the respectable faculty and stakeholders at your university. Through a multichannel PR approach, students are able to see professors published in major news outlets such as Wired, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and more.

Fun Fact: The Huffington Post has 33,647,468 unique visitors per month.

 

 

Display

While Digital PR works to land opportunities for professors in news outlets and publications around the web, display advertising places highly focused visual advertisements on these same websites. These powerful advertisements are proven to generate high quality traffic to a program’s webpage.

Fun Fact: The Google Display Network includes more than 2 million sites.

 

While the 6 avenues for student acquisition highlighted in the video cover most of the options available, there are many other tactics for savvy marketers to leverage to place their brand in front of prospective students. To find out how to locate students for your program, drop us a line here.

 

how students find degree programs hemj image

FreddieFrederic has three years experience in higher education content marketing and search engine optimization. Working with Circa Interactive, he has gained valuable experience in paid search, analytics, SEO strategy, and client management. Follow him on Twitter: @FredHigherEd

Three Common Mistakes Higher Education Marketers Make and How to Avoid Them

As marketing experts, our job is to work tirelessly to understand market habits and trends in a way that allows us to effectively position our university’s strengths to align with those very trends; however, we often forget that market research reports and conversion charts are more than just numbers. While these resources are, of course, extremely important facets when making any decisions in our field, too often we forget the humanity behind those very reports and what drives them. Using research from Chet Holmes, esteemed corporate trainer to greats like GNC and Estee Lauder, and his book The Ultimate Sales Machine, here’s what you and your team can do to make sure your messaging has the greatest impact on the right audience.    

1: Target More Than Just The Active “Shoppers”

According to Holmes’ extensive research, every program, product, and service has an ideal audience that   is broken down into 5 segments.

Prospective Students Stats

(source: The Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes)

The first 3% are students who are active in their pursuit of a higher education degree. The second 7% aren’t as committed as the first 3%, but they’re open to the idea of pushing their career to the next level. The next 30% are people who A) have no idea that they need a higher diploma or B) are unaware your university or degree program exists. This group is your “unconscious” market. Then, there’s the next 30% that knows both that they need a degree to get where they want in their career and that you offer that program, but the need isn’t their top priority. It’s simply something they want “sometime in the future.” And finally, we have the 30% who will just never be interested. Unfortunately, pursuing the final 30% would result in a colossal waste of time and money, but the good news is that the remaining 70% is free game.

SOLUTION: Even though 3% have made it their priority to actively seek out a way to change their lives for the better, every other university is angling to enroll those same students into their program as well. This is precisely why the remaining 67% cannot be neglected, but the challenge will not go without struggle. Awakening the unconscious will take more than a nudge. Mobilizing the aware but uncommitted will take more than a suggestion. Solving this is, of course, much easier said than done, but this article will guide you to find new ways to mobilize your otherwise inactive 67% of potential students to enroll.

2: Hone in on only one Student Profile for each Targeted Campaign

When setting the various targeting parameters for any given ad campaign, you’re usually given a set of checkboxes or drop-down lists. First, they start out fairly generic: location, check; age, check; gender, check. Then, the good stuff: education level, check, check; profession, check, check, check; interests, check, check, check, check, check. The problem with this strategy typically stems from the crippling desire of not wanting to miss a single community that might be interested in your school. What’s worse is that this same strategy is likely forcing your ad copy to fit the needs of a broad set of compiled personalities and interests. Not only does this approach water down the extraordinary features your program has to offer, but it robs the potential student of the intimacy and inspiration they crave to push their career to the next level.

SOLUTION: Strive for intimacy. To achieve this, you need two things. The first is an effective egoic label: a label demonstrates both what a person identifies with and role they serve within that label. For example, the strongest egoic label is “mother.” Not only is it a word that many women intensely identify with, but it also demonstrates their role and function within a family. Egoic labels can come from a number of different categories like vocation (entrepreneur, professional women, doctor), nationality (American, Canadian, Mexican), relationship (mother, married, single), or even ownership (homeowner, dog owner, mac owner), but what’s important is that only one is chosen per campaign.

The second thing you’ll need is your egoic label’s symptom. For example, working mothers who struggle to make ends meet with their hourly job tend to have “symptoms” like the following: not enough time, don’t make enough money, or, the most common symptom of any egoic label, hate their job. You can use simple verbiage that taps directly into these symptoms.

Take Snickers for example. They may not have names on every candy bar, but when you see “Grouchy,” “Feisty,” “Sleepy,” or “Rebellious” written on the wrapper, the candy bar is no longer selling the chocolate inside; it’s selling a cure to the symptom the consumer self-identifies with. By turning Snickers’ “grouchy” into “mom who hates her job,” your marketing will allow your reader to self-select themselves. Rather than tirelessly working to get your prospective students to say “okay, I’ll check out your university,” you’ll have marketing that allows them to opt themselves in by inspiring them to say “this was made for me!” All too often, it’s easy for us as marketing professionals to forget to look beyond the analytic reports and trending topics and see our job for what it is – inspiring and motivating people to better their lives, their jobs, and their happiness with the knowledge and expertise you know your university can provide for them. Which brings me to my next point:

3: Show Your Prospective Students Value Immediately  

All too often I see ad campaigns float across my Facebook feed begging their reader to “check them out!” The reality of this rhetoric, however, is that the reader, or a prospective student in this case, has little to no incentive to need what you’re offering. By not presenting an immediate value that your hopeful student can both immediately benefit from and use, a much too large margin of error can occur. Campaigns should never be a space for bragging about how excellent your university is; it should create a space where working professionals can A) recognize that they have a “symptom” that needs to be solved, B) understand clearly the long-term benefits in pursuing your degree program, and C) show them what service or resource they can take advantage of immediately which can change their “maybe later” answer to an outright yes.

SOLUTION: Several simple ways of accomplishing this could be a free consultation from one of your university’s advisors, a free (easy-to-grasp) whitepaper, or perhaps an exclusive free webinar. The point here is that your potential students will see, perhaps unconsciously, that your university is willing to put in as much effort in educating them now as they will be when they’ve enrolled and started classes.  

What we, as marketing professionals must remember is that marketing materials aren’t just a compilation of research. It’s a message to an individual that they don’t have to be unhappy with their job, boss, or even their career path all together. We must remember that enrolling a student isn’t just another tally to add to the books, it’s an individual who has committed to creating the change they crave. It’s those 2AM problems that keep us awake at night that should be the forefront of any marketing strategy. If we can recognize these problems and effectively illustrate how we can help solve them with our services, then we’re much more likely to break through the clutter and speak to the audience who wants to listen.

Tami Final for SiteTami is one of our in-house social media gurus with a passion for content marketing and public relations. After earning her degree in communication and marketing from the University of California, San Diego, her dedication and multi-faceted skillset for creative marketing strategies has led her to become a crucial team member driven to expanding Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value.