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The higher education industry is experiencing several recruitment challenges, including fluctuating enrollment numbers and a growing number of students that rely on digital tools, such as college websites, to search for information. Additionally, prospective college students are getting older, especially with the rise of online courses.

Colleges looking to reach new students can utilize these strategies to create an effective marketing campaign incorporating radio.

1. Future college students are more than just Millennials. Prospective college students can be grouped into two targets: the first is the traditional group of Millennial undergraduates in their early to mid-20s. The second includes an emerging older demographic, fueled by the availability of online courses.

The average age of college students is rising. In fact, 38% of students enrolled in college are 25 or older, and this number is projected to grow 18% by 2020, according to a recent report in The Atlantic.

Of those enrolled in online courses, 50% are 35 and older, according to a recent report by the Learning House. In conclusion, younger listeners continue to be a major target, but the older demographic and radio formats that target 35- to 49-year-olds are important to consider as well.

Radio is the number one mass reach medium to target both the traditional and emerging college demographics. Radio reaches 93% of 18- to 34-year-olds and 95% of 35- to 49-year-olds each week.

2. Use radio personality endorsement campaigns to engage listeners. Radio is an intimate channel to connect with an audience one-on-one. Endorsements by online personalities are a powerful way to drive action.

For example, a recent insurance campaign targeting Millennials had proven results using a live call-to-action from a radio personality encouraging listeners to text for more information. Like this campaign, higher education institutions can use radio to encourage listeners to find out more information.

We recommend higher education campaigns use a combination of live reads, endorsements, voiced spots, and recorded ads to reach your target audience.

3. Highlight your web presence. For today’s college hopefuls, the search for the perfect school is a digital one. The majority (77%) of college-bound seniors polled in 2014 say college websites are the most influential resource in their college search, according to the higher education consultants Ruffalo Noel Levitz. With 62% of college students preferring a web-based resource for learning about colleges, universities should drive traffic to their websites for maximum impact within this group.

We suggest highlighting your web presence in your ad creative. Check out a sample spec spot we created at Westwood One:



Contact us today to discuss how to fit radio into your marketing plan.

A special thanks to the Center for Sales Strategy for providing much of the research in this post.

Pierre Bouvard is CMO of Cumulus Media | Westwood One 
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