The Right Message at the Right Time

In order to apply, enroll and complete college, students need the right message at the right time. Colleges must communicate with students in a timely and useful way. In the Age of Information, however, it’s not easy to ensure that students are getting the message.

This is the issue that Thomas Kinsey, Data Steward, and Tanya Lane-Martin, Assistant Dean for Enrollment Management/Director of Admissions, at Genesee Community College, New York, will address in their session “The Right Message at the Right Time” at AACRAO’s 2015 SEM Conference.

Ahead of the meeting, they talked to us about how they improved their communications plan and what they’ll cover in their session.

See this session and others at AACRAO's SEM Conference in Hollywood, FL.  Register today!

Tom Kinsey

Admissions Data Analyst

Genesee Community College

Tanya Lane-Martin 

Assistant Dean for Enrollment Management/Director of Admissions

Genesee Community College

The Right Message at the Right Time

Monday, November 02, 2015 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

AACRAO: What are the major obstacles to effective communication with students?

Lane-Martin: Students need different information depending on where they are in the recruitment process. Students don’t really understand the message until the message is important to them, so we must meet students’ needs exactly where they are in the process.

For example, we use data to show us which populations need to get a particular message and send the message directly to them. Many students coming to community college aren’t ready to test until mid-spring, so we’ll consistently send that message through a variety of media—email, text, direct mail—at that time, to the specific population that hasn’t tested yet.

AACRAO: What roles does data play?

Kinsey: I am continually looking at where students are in the process. We use a business intelligence platform to see who hasn’t taken any tests, who has taken them and how they’ve placed. That means we can send out custom messages to multiple populations.

Another example: we look at students who decide to withdraw for a particular semester. Instead of ignoring them and assuming they are no longer interested in the college, we reach out to those students and invite them to come in a later semester.  The student may be ready to receive the later message because they missed their first opportunity.

Genesee Strategic Intelligence, which uses OBIEE (Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition), helps us to manage and understand our data better.

Lane-Martin: We use other tools as well, and our approach has evolved over the years. The market right now is flooded with various CRMs, which are similar to what we as an institution have created over the last five years, using generic products and mixing and matching various databases to give us what we need.

Kinsey: We tend to say garbage in, garbage out. Your data are only as good as questions you’ve asked of it.

AACRAO: What changes have you made to improve communications?

Lane-Martin: Traditionally, once schools have direct mail plans set up, they tend to just allow it to do its work. It’s the shotgun approach: send a message and hope people get what they need. But students are at different places in the process and it doesn’t benefit anyone to include all those people in the same message. So now we’ve tailored those messages to the students’ needs.

To make that work, communications need to be a coordinated, collaborative effort between everyone—financial aid, admissions, advising, and records departments.

Kinsey: In addition, it’s important to be constantly self-reflective and look at your results. What works well and what doesn’t? Which communication is working, what needs refinement, and what needs to be dropped? This process can help you hone your effectiveness along the way.

Lane-Martin: And it also saves money. Targeted marketing with a clear call to action can help prevent wasting money on generic messages that go ignored, and enroll more students.