The words that PSE marketing professionals fear most

“Trust me. I know what kids care about these days.”

Melissa felt her stomach drop. As a marketing professional working at a higher ed institution, she dreaded hearing these words from her colleague. 

Her mission was clear—help produce a viewbook that would show prospective students how unique and wonderful her institution was. The hard part, though, would be convincing her colleague that creating an effective viewbook needed to be based on reliable evidence and not personal intuition. 

“I’ve got two nephews,” her colleague continued, “and they’ve both told me that they’re coming to our school because it has great facilities. So that’s what we should emphasize in the viewbook every chance we get!”

Melissa knew that there would be no convincing her team of any other creative strategy without clear data backing her up. But there were only three weeks left until she was due to give a presentation to the board. There was no way she could run concept testing with the school’s current students in that amount of time, considering the demands of creating a survey, administering it, gathering data, and compiling it all into one clear and visually appealing report for the board. 

Situations like this come up constantly in the marketing departments of higher ed institutions. Without access to timely, accurate research, discussions about marketing materials are doomed to descend into arguments based on anecdotes and personal intuition. And if there’s one thing marketing and communications professionals learn early in their careers, it’s that many things can be true—in theory. 

In theory, students might care about a school’s facilities more than other factors. 

In theory, a school just needs to highlight what it finds important over and over until students get the message.

In theory, students everywhere will have similar priorities as an administrator’s kids, nephews, or nieces. 

But marketing and communications professionals like Melissa don’t work in a world of theory.

They work in reality, where timely and accurate research on student perceptions can be the difference between a creative masterpiece and a forgettable dud that does little more than generate unnecessary arguments. 

In situations like these, Melissa always found it necessary to focus on four basic principles:

  • Your colleagues and bosses aren’t your target audience; students are
  • Your best chance at creating effective marketing materials comes from getting buy-in from these students
  • Timely and accurate research can lead a team from arguing about personal theories to building consensus around evidence
  • The things students care about in a school might be wildly different from what institutional stakeholders predict

Luckily, Melissa had another option for getting the research she needed.

A friend in the marketing community told her about StudentVu, a virtual campus made up of 5,000 college and university students from across Canada. Melissa was able to use StudentVu to gather survey-based feedback on her school’s viewbook concepts and to determine which one clearly stood out for real students. All she had to do was submit a request outlining her goals and creative materials, and within three weeks, she received a clear and compelling final report and visual presentation to bring to her board. And she did all of it at a budget starting at $4,800.

In the end, Melissa used her StudentVu findings to build consensus around the creative materials that real PSE students liked best. The consensus didn’t come instantly, but as she presented the findings, Melissa could see the board coming around to what the evidence was clearly telling them. 

The impact of Melissa’s presentation lasted long after the viewbook testing project, because it helped foster a culture of evidence-based decision making among her school’s stakeholders. Today, Melissa’s conversations with her colleagues are clear, constructive—and most importantly—based on reliable evidence. And because of this, both Melissa and her colleagues can agree that coming to work is a little more enjoyable.

Pricing for StudentVu projects begins at $4,800. If you are interested in learning more about how StudentVu can help your school with timely and accurate concept testing for your marketing materials, please don’t hesitate to contact Academica Group. Or if you’d prefer to chat over the phone, you can reach us toll-free at 1-866-922-8636 ext. 228.


At Academica Group, we’re proud to work with hundreds of committed, passionate higher ed professionals who want to drive improvement at their institutions. By providing enhanced research capacity and expert guidance, we allow these professionals to work beyond resource limitations and seize more opportunities to positively impact the lives of their students, colleagues, and campus communities.

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