Marketing Knox under new leadership, from outside in

From application to alumni, Knox communicates its image

October 5, 2011

Part of a series on Marketing and Communications Revamp

Whether it’s prospective students, parents, alumni or the world at large, the way Knox is perceived by people everyday has a large impact on the college.

President Teresa Amott has made the message the college is sending out a priority.

“You want to make sure that information about you does capture what’s special about you … make sure we are telling the Knox story accurately and attractively,” Amott said.

A personal education

“With students applying to more colleges and doing more research before making their final choice,” Amott said, “setting our school apart from similar institutions becomes even more important.”

“The power of relationships between faculty and students” is one of the things Amott said does set us apart. “At Knox you will be known.”

This is reflected in the admissions process, according to Director of Admissions Paul Steenis, giving the example of how campus tours are small and personal and each student is given a personal itinerary for their visit.

“The best way to market the college is to capture the real life experience and the real life ways that students and professors interact and learn from each other,” Steenis said.

This personalized admissions process, as well as language used in admissions materials, such as “freedom to flourish,” “attracts a certain kind of student,” which Amott described as “an independent minded person, an open person; a person with broad interests but strong academic focus.”

Communicating with alumni

The importance of the message Knox is sending does not end when a student graduates. It is also important to keep alumni involved with the college.

When communicating with alumni Amott wants the campus to seem “familiar and fresh,” to tell them that the college is still the place they loved, but it is moving forward, advancing technologically and becoming more global.

Director of Advancement Communications and Knox Magazine Editor Megan Scott tries to keep alumni engaged with the college and thus more likely to volunteer and give.

She is currently redesigning the Knox Magazine and hopes to focus the message more on Knox’s overall academic program and engagement with the global community.

The goal of the college’s communications with alumni is to “make vivid to them the impact of their time and their gifts,” Amott said.

A research-based approach

Alumni Relations recently completed a comprehensive alumni survey, asking alumni what is effective and what is not and what communication they would like to receive.

This is part of an attempt in many departments at what Amott called a “research based look at where we sit among competitive institutions.”

Admissions is also “interested in doing more in the way of market research,” Steenis said. Amott mentioned focus groups, people outside looking at our materials and looking at other institutions’ materials as part of this research.

Getting the word out online

While many changes in marketing that will result from this research have yet to be determined, one change across all departments will be the importance of Internet-communication.

In admissions, according to Steenis, students’ college search processes are increasingly electronic, resulting in what he calls, “stealth inquiries,” where the Office of Admissions never hears from a student before receiving an application.

Amott would like to change the website more often, so if a visitor comes two days in a row, he or she would see different things. Karrie Heartlein, Director of Public Relations, will be one of the main people implementing these changes.

Heartlein would like to “tell more stories from the student perspective … [and] freshen the website more quickly.” Public Relations efforts are not, however, limited to the website.

“Social media is playing a bigger role in how we communicate with the rest of the year,” Heartlein said, it is “important for us to find ways to stay current with those things.”

Steenis was impressed with the way in which Amott engaged with new students on the class of 2015 Facebook page.

“[Amott] takes personal interest in what we communicate and how we communicate it,” Steenis said.

Many of the things Amott would like to see in marketing of Knox are not new ideas, but they are already taking place.

Amott said she was moved by the care and dedication she has seen from students, faculty and staff at Knox and hopes to help campus to “redouble our efforts to communicate that to the outside world.”

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