In this Quick Tips! video, Dr. Pamela Cox-Otto, CEO of Interact, has advice on what you should be doing right now to address the “new normal” in which we find ourselves. She suggests specific actions to help you retain current students and attract new students, and addresses how you can serve local businesses and unique communities. Want to find out how your students, faculty, and staff have been impacted over the last couple of months? Pam offers solutions to help you find those answers and more.
Hi everyone, this is Pam Cox-Otto from Interact Communications and I’m happy to join you today. Today, my topic is five things to do right now. And they’re kind of a mixed bag of things, but they’re things that will give you a lot of traction later. So, think about them.
Number one, most of you were going along through your spring semester, the virus hit, you closed down for a week or two and then you came back up online, right? And what probably happened is you lost anywhere from 15 to 20% of your students who never came back. And you’re going, “Well, damn, that’s not fun.” And now what you’re trying to do is to finish off the semester and have a decent summer, and then focus on fall. What I’m telling you right now, is you need to use your resources to phone, do a survey, do interviews, I don’t care, but get in touch with the people that you lost and ask them, “What were the barriers that kept you from coming back to our campus?” Right? Because we’re online.
If they have fundamental problems like no internet or no computer, you better know that now. And the good news is, if you do find out that there really are some very hard barriers, now you can look for the kinds of things that will allow you to do some solutions that maybe you haven’t thought about previously. So, survey the students you lost and find out what were the barriers and what kept them from coming back.
Number two is if you were having climate issues—and by this I don’t mean climate change, I mean climate issues within your organization where you have people that are not happy with each other, lack of trust, lack of communication, whatever it is—if you’ve been having some uncomfortable push-pull between staff, faculty, and leadership, it’s very important to take some time and talk with them about, “What do you need and what do we need to be providing you with to help you be successful in this new online universe?”
The mere fact that you’re asking is going to be a powerful thing. But this, you know… Everybody will always tell you that it’s hardship that brings people together and when you survive it, friendships are forged that go on forever. This is the chance for you to bring folks together in a way that you’ve never really been able to do before. But to do that, that means you have to do something that’s a little difficult right now, which is ask them what they need and focus on some of their needs. It could be a standard survey, it could be focus groups, it could be interviews, I don’t care. But it needs to be broadly enough based that you get a real idea about what people need and what are some of the barriers, because working from home, we’re all finding out, not as easy as it looks like.
Number three, use recruiting to call the folks who’ve been accepted for fall. Usually people apply, you say, “You’ve been accepted, and here’s the five things we want you to do.” They sit there kind of aging, right? Well, for the first time, your recruiting folk don’t have a damn place to go. There’s no schools open, there’s no conferences, they’re not going into work fairs. So, what I’m telling you is they should be on the phone. They just became your phone team that’s connecting. So, go through those folks who say they’re coming, and you could start with summer if you wanted, say they’re coming in summer, follow up, “Are you prepared? Do you need anything?” Prep all of that and make sure… What you’re doing in this call is two things. You’re pinging their intent to come, right? And you’re also reinforcing their intent to come.
During that phone call, you want to offer them some simple things like, “By the way, we’ve created a webpage that shows you all the online facilities available to you through the school. We’ve got a new orientation.” All sorts of things, but you should be calling to give them something as opposed to ask for something. So, you’re basically saying, “We hope you’re still coming. Here’s some resources for you.” And, you know, get their email, send them… “Would you like me to email you the list of services that are coming to be available in summer and fall?” Another way that you can make that work.
And give them some things to look forward to. I’ve been talking about colleges starting e-teams for a long, damn time. They don’t cost that much, truly. They use computers, they form teams, it gives people fun things. Right now, look what’s going on in the real athletic world. E-teams that, where people are playing online, are blossoming. Why? Because nobody can play football or basketball or baseball. So, in the absence of the kind of real-world, face-to-face games, e-teams are growing, and you probably have a lot of, and for the most part young men, but there are women who play as well, that want a chance to be a part of something. Think about pulling that together because it doesn’t all have to be just, “Oh, we’re going online and this is a tough time. And isn’t that sad?” It can be a fun time too, but you have to think about things that you’re going to offer that would be doing that.
Number four is create that new orientation kind of slide piece. For the most part, whatever orientation you did, if you were doing it face-to-face, well, that’s dead, and you want to make sure that you’re walking them through the facilities that you have available to them and the resources you have available to them, and a lot of places you have that, but it’s hidden all through your website. Create a landing page with all of those links. Create a handout with all of those pieces that you could be sending out, but basically turn your orientation into an online orientation.
It could be a PowerPoint, guys. It could be a video. We do those all the time, but make it something simple and fresh that anybody can see and be aware of how to access things that have changed. By the way, the people who will struggle with this most are your continuing students. They’re used to being able to stop by to see a counselor, an advisor, go see admissions. All of that’s gone for them, so you really need to go to the next step to tell them how to access those things that used to be as simple as going over to the admissions office.
And I guess the number five is a community capability and needs survey. Wherever you are, Rust Belt, agricultural area, the Shores, the Deep South, doesn’t matter, every community has different needs right now, different types of folks have been laid off, everybody is in a place where they’re struggling a certain amount. And your community, because it’s unique, may have some unique needs of classes that you could offer. You could, let’s assume you’re in an area where it’s a large tech area, you could be providing training that normally would have been people becoming personal assistants, but instead, they’re training to become virtual assistants. It could be doing online sales. There are still jobs out there, available, and each region will have different kinds of jobs. You can be building certificates and responding to that or providing training, but you won’t be able to do that unless you know what it is.
And in the meantime, also reach out to your business community. You know, I know nobody likes Zoom, we all know why, but it is good for doing virtual focus groups. We’re doing that right now with lots of different schools. A lot of the stuff we do, but you have research people who probably aren’t that fully tasked right now, they can be doing this as well. If we can help you with ideas about how to pull it off, let me know. Thanks for joining me. There’ll be more on this stuff later.