The Power of the Human Story: In Enrollment Campaigns & In Life
By: Laura Sheehan
Over the past month, I’ve interviewed 20 or so students for different projects on different campuses. The goal of each interview was the same — to get them talking so I can hear their story: where they came from, why they came to this particular college, and how they’ve changed since. What I’ve heard recently reminded me (once again) of the innate power of the human story — in life and in marketing.
Here’s one: a student came to a remote campus from more than halfway across the country. When I asked why, he told me how his parents were deported when he was finishing high school, wrenched from his life and sent back to their home country. As a U.S. citizen, he was allowed to stay — alone. A friend’s family took him in and he enrolled in a college close to home. He struggled, though, and soon dropped out. “I didn’t know what to do or how to move forward,” he said.
Then a friend mentioned this college. It was so far from everything he knew, but it offered him the opportunity to play the sport he loved: “I decided I had to try it. I knew it would be hard and I’d be homesick, but I made my decision and came to campus without even seeing it first.”
Of course, it has a happy ending: shocking as his arrival was, he found a home on campus. “This is my family, my community,” he said. “I’ll learn everything I can here to build a life and help other people. I want to be a lawyer and fight for people who are disenfranchised.”
So here’s this young man, more or less alone in the world, who pushed through the fear and loneliness, forged a life, and is inspired to help others. That’s a great story — one that speaks on the strengths of that particular college and one that can motivate others to check it out.
In enrollment marketing these micro-stories offer great content — as short narratives, testimonials, videos, even headlines for story-telling photos. Research shows that prospective students want to hear from current students — their experiences, their impressions, their life stories.
I saw this again when reviewing our first round of stats for a digital campaign: the story-telling ads were 80% more effective than the other ads (measured by click through rates). It was enough to remind me of the power of stories — and to make them a focal point in every campaign.