On today’s episode of the Illumination by Modern Campus podcast, guest host Shauna Cox was joined by Kristen Huyck to discuss the strategy behind leveraging your website and the importance of engaging your learners in various formats.
Voice over: Welcome to Illumination by Modern Campus, the leading podcast focused on transformation and change in the higher education space. On today’s episode, we speak with Kristen Huyck, who is Director of Public and Governmental Relations, Marketing and Communications at MiraCosta College. Kristen and podcast guest host Shauna Cox, discuss the strategy behind leveraging your website and the importance of engaging your learners in various formats.
Shauna Cox (00:02):Awesome. Well, Kristen, thank you so much for joining me on the Illuminate. Well, Kristen, thank you so much for joining me today on the Illumination Podcast. It's great to be chatting with you.
Kristen Huyck (00:13):Great to be here.
Shauna Cox (00:14):Awesome. Well, we're here today to focus our conversation around the 2023 E expectations report, which is our biannual survey conducted by r Ruffalo Noel Levitt. And that gives, you know, people insights into what students think about when it comes to their post-secondary education. So in that finding, you know, students continue to identify the website as the most important source to learn about colleges and the universities. So from your perspective, how should this finding influence the strategy and direction of institutional websites?
Kristen Huyck (00:50):Yeah, great question. And the research and findings were extremely interesting to review. But we live in a society where it's not a matter of access to information. We have information coming at us wherever we go. It's obtaining accurate information. And websites have been a tried and true trusted source for information. So it's critical to make sure that a website is current, it's accessible, it's functional to be able to kind of lead the user through the information. 10 to 20 years ago, the presence of a website was substantial to an organization cuz it would substantiate it. However, today it's essential. It's not a matter of is it, you know, recognizing if it's an organization or valid organization, it's necessary. I think people's eyebrows become raised if they Google or they go online or ask Chat G p t and there is no website. So I I the website is an expected tool now.
Shauna Cox (01:56): Absolutely. And so within that report, you know, students of all ages are tending to search for programs and areas and, you know, career outcomes more than the information on, you know, a college size or the location of a college. So to you, what does that indicate about, you know, the preference of today's learners for college marketers?
Kristen Huyck (02:20):Yeah, so I think it's, looking at the outcome, I, it's really folks are taking a look at institutions and colleges more towards what they're going to get after their time there, not necessarily what their time there looks like. This reinforces that messaging strategy is critical and it should be for folks that are in marketing and communications. This is valuable information about what's being communicated. There's a big push around guided pathways and it's looking at more so the area of study is, is in groups because there's so many things at the college level that high school students didn't know existed. The word sociology, anthropology, kinesiology, these are terms that most high school students aren't familiar with. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So looking at what these areas of study, what kind of careers folks can go into 'em. People have heard of sports therapists. People have heard of a researcher, a lecturer, but they may not know what type of area they need to study. So focusing on the careers I think is critical. And it also supports individuals who might be first generation in college that may not know the terminology, may not know what sociology is, but they know that they wanna be a counselor.
Shauna Cox (03:46):And I think especially when you're looking back on that whole idea of, you know, a first generation student or someone who may have gone to college but had dropped out or had a poor experience, I think it's also important to consider you know, providing that information to them, but also the support that they can have and the support services that are also available to them.
Kristen Huyck (04:11):Absolutely.
Shauna Cox (04:12):Ask just the next, next question here of, in your, in your search of, well, in your reading of the report, what were some of the findings from this year's report that were surprising to you? Did anything stand out in particular or were you kind of expecting some of the things you found?
Kristen Huyck (04:34):A lot of it is what we've been seeing here at Mira Costa College. So it didn't, it reinforced what we had already have been doing and tactics we've been deploying. The one thing that I don't wanna say surprising, but yeah, it was surprising was the use of the phone. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, it seems like with the pandemic, there's almost been a neglect to the phone, or maybe it's generational mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, but the fact that phone call is still pertinent. And the report, it talks about 77% of students said calls from admission counselors were helpful. That it's, I I think there's almost the stigma around a phone call mm-hmm. <Affirmative> that oh, gotta send a text message and gotta send an email, which are two viable sources of communications. But that a phone call is a personal way to reach out, to follow up to support students that might be interested.
(05:32):And it also, with a phone call as well as the other modalities of communications direct mail, text message, email, it's important. And again, it goes back to that first question you asked about the website. Mm-Hmm. Because oftentimes if somebody's calling, they're giving a whole amount of information. If that information cannot be put in a digestible form, whether referring somebody to a webpage there's gonna be some holes in the data just because as you know, people can only take in so much from a phone call. Same thing with an email. It drives it back to a website. The report talks about the importance of email and making it simple. There there was some comments about students that wanted a funny email or they wanted videos in the email. And, and we know less is more in communications, but I think sometimes we think more is more.
(06:25):We wanna put it all in an email cause we can't miss anything. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. But really how can we link to websites, how can we link to information for folks to be able to obtain it mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. So while these channels of communication we're seeing email, text, message, direct mail, phone calls are all important, that website to where people can find additional information or reinforce the information that's already communicated. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. But going back to the thing that most surprised me is definitely the viability of phone calls and students still appreciating phone calls or even will pick up the phone and call
Shauna Cox (07:01):I love that comment you made about like the stigma around phone calls, which is true. And that's also a surprising stat when I was looking at the report myself and I was shocked at the phone call. Cause I'm thinking my perception of like, do I wanna have someone call me? I was like, is there that fear there? But I guess that is changing. And I would say, you know, for higher education leaders, not to throw the quote unquote traditional ways of marketing out the window and maybe just reevaluate it and adapt it back into more of your modern practices. But don't throw everything at the door.
Kristen Huyck (07:37):Yeah. It's not a one size fits all. We know that our students come to us with different preferences and while these reports are wonderful, it's not saying disregard the one that didn't, you know, wasn't the top form of communication. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. There are folks that are still picking up the phone that are, or that don't wanna pick up the phone and on the flip side, wanted in a text message. Yeah. So again, it's not that one size fits all and that, and if the pandemic taught us anything, we've seen this increase in modality of communications where some folks want live chat, some folks want text messages, some folks want phone, that all of these modalities are critical.
Shauna Cox (08:18):So leading into that, you know, oftentimes when it comes to personalization, there's always the question of data and security and, you know, having too much knowledge around a student, things like that. But in our report, you know, it found that students were willing to share their personal information with a college to create more of that tailored experience. So how should this help shape the approach that colleges take to personalization during that admission and enrollment period?
Kristen Huyck (08:52):Well, one thing, you talk about data and the sharing of data. One of the things that just made me smile with the report is that students are willing to share their parents' information. That kind of threw me off of, okay. But that is viable. And I think having information shared, I, we see the private sector, Amazon, Netflix, meta that take our data and feed us, you know, you might wanna buy this, you might wanna watch this. So I, I think as a society we've almost expect the data that we share to support what's being communicated. That customization and communications, if someone is willing to share data and what preference they wanna be communicated in. Again, some students might want email, some might want that phone call. And if that information can be shared for the institution that then pick up and run with it mm-hmm.
(09:44):It also allows for an improved student experience. If a student is looking at a particular career goal and that's known by the institution, then supporting that career goal with information, maybe particularly about a major. Likewise if a student is undecided and not sure where to go, but might fall under disproportionately impacted population, there can be ways to build culture, there can be support that's provided. So it's really looking at the holistic students and the more information an institution has, they can tailor the communications to then support the students. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> you know, if it's athletics, if it's clubs, if it's you know, areas of study.
Shauna Cox (10:32): Well, Kristen, that's everything we had for you and I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today. Now I am gonna throw you off guard a little bit and I apologize for throwing you off guard, but I would be remiss not to mention this because we like to include it into all of our podcast episodes. And that would be if somebody is visiting your town, I believe you said San Diego, correct? Yes. So if someone's visiting San Diego, what restaurant would you recommend for them?
Kristen Huyck (11:04):Oh my goodness. There are too many Good growing up, <laugh> and San Diego is huge. Top three, oh my goodness, <laugh>, whew. It's a big county. I'm in the North county area and so I can definitely make recommendations for Oceanside. But I, not so a specific restaurant, but more of a food and check out the tacos. There are so many great taco places that are, you know, that quick taco stand to even high end tacos or even, you know, blending of cuisines. So that would be my recommendation is just find the place that has tacos and enjoy it.
Shauna Cox (11:47):Absolutely. You can never go wrong with a good taco.
Kristen Huyck (11:52):Yes. Awesome.
Shauna Cox (11:53):All right, Kristen. Well thank you so much. Perfect. And it was great having you.
Kristen Huyck (11:58):Excellent. Thank you so much.