Home » Resources » Want to Engage Students? Boost Student Retention in Education with Relatable, Emotional Messaging, Part 2

Building student retention in education can be tricky. But with the following creative communication tips, we hope it will become a little easier! From promoting clear messaging to spicing it up with relatable content, you’ll find ideas and examples to get your creative juices flowing.

In part one of our blog series, Want to Keep Students Motivated? Strengthen the Student Journey with 6 Creative Retention Techniques,” we explored how to strengthen communication with students on every step of their college adventure.

Now it’s time for part two! Read on to find the innovative ideas to bust out of communication ruts. Ready to really reach students to give them the encouragement they need to persist? Excited to overcome issues of retention in education? Then get cracking with our first tip:

1. Keep Communication Clear and Concise for Student Retention in Education

We know that there are many places where we lose students along their journey. So how can we inspire their confidence and persistence? 

A great first step is making sure your communication is easy to understand, not to mention short and sweet. Let’s look at some best practices and pitfalls in your student outreach messaging. 

Avoid Academic Jargon

For better retention in education, avoid jargon words listed here, like "Bursur."

One of the best things you can do in your messaging is tone down all that academic jargon.

When we conduct communication audits of materials and websites, we often find that most are written for internal audiences. And these internal audiences rely on college terminology or different acronyms needed for simple navigation that your students don’t understand. 

Many students and potential students already suffer from the idea that they’re not good enough to go to college. So don’t add to their confusion and frustration by using all this complicated internal speak! 

What you could do is pull together a focus group of students on campus. Have these actual students review your content for clarity and make sure that things are very easy to understand. 

You can learn more about this topic on our blog, Academic Jargon: Why It’s Evil and How to Crush It with 7 Simple Tips.

Break Down Complicated Steps

While you’re at it, think about bite-sized pieces for nudging students from step to step. Dole out your information gradually and only when they need it. 

Don’t overwhelm them with a giant list of everything they need to know and do before they can graduate. When students first apply, make it easy. Keep it simple! 

Also, be consistent with sharing your available resources. You never know who needs to hear that particular message on that specific day.

2. Get Creative with Your Connections for Retention in Education

Here’s the fun part. It’s time to draw upon your inner child and be willing to play. 

As Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

And Steve Jobs described creativity as “connecting things.”

So, let’s look at how we can have some fun and connect with students in new ways to reach and engage your audiences and build better retention in education.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Cute and Cuddly

Ever notice how many times you see pets in commercials for products that have nothing to do with pets? 

People love their pets, and it’s a sure way to their hearts!

Here are some fun examples from our work with the Los Angeles Community College District. The LACCD pets make getting money for college a whole lot friendlier.

Maximize Your Mascot

And, of course, the word “mascota” in Spanish means pet! So, if you’re lucky enough to have your very own “pet” on campus, send them in to engage and entertain your students. 

While your mascot might not necessarily be an animal, it can certainly help showcase your college’s unique personality. Mascot appearances can boost morale and school spirit. Plus, they can help with those important reminders like registering for classes or applying for scholarships. 

@danvilleareacc on TikTok
@lakelandcollegeil

We miss you already… See you in class January 10! communitycollege CollegeTok

♬ WHY IS EVERYONE USING THIS – .
@lakelandcollegeil on TikTok

TikTok can be a great place for mascots, and hopping on trends can increase your views and engagements. One of our clients in Pennsylvania, the Community College of Beaver County, deserves a special shout-out for using their titan mascot to encourage enrollment. 

A banner add with a cheerful Titan mascot reads, "Titan up. Enroll now." Overcome issues of retention in education with fun, creative messaging using your mascot.

3. Take a Look at What’s Trending

You can also see what’s trending for creative inspiration. Fortunately, social media makes that super easy. What shows are students talking about? Are there tunes that keep making the rounds? What memes are they sharing?

You can connect with what’s trending to liven up your copy, make your communications more relatable, and overcome issues of retention in education.

The example here shows how you could pull in some pop culture, TV, and gaming references to lighten up a not-so-fun topic — getting students to file their FAFSA.

If you want more audience research tips and tools, check out our blog, Sustainable Social Media Marketing Strategies for Higher Ed: How to Keep Your Content Fresh and Flowing.

4. Connect Over Popular Culture

Our VP Mary DeLuca has a confession to make: “OK. I admit I’m a Star Wars geek.”

While working at the Community College of Baltimore County, she helped launch a Star Wars-themed retention campaign to encourage students within and between semesters. The campaign was on campus TV screens, in emails, on social media posts — you name it.

According to DeLuca, “Students loved them! And we had some of the best engagement of any of our student email campaigns.”

So if you want to create stronger student retention in education, don’t be afraid to go retro and make your messages “pop!”

5. Retention Marketing … Figuratively Speaking

Using metaphors and figurative language is another way to play and establish a rapport with students. Use that shared knowledge and experience to tackle a dense subject, complex idea, or not-so-fun task. Help students associate that difficult idea with something positive. 

Here, Shasta College in California helps associate taking one more class with positive things like one more hug, rep at the gym, and sweet piece of chocolate. It’s a creative and fun way to encourage students not to give up and overcome issues of retention in education.

Metaphors Can Create Friendlier Student Retention in Education

Metaphors can also help you get out of ruts in writing student communications. Take the following examples:

Oddly enough, this letter on the left is delivering good news — your financial aid package is ready! But does the text-heavy email with ALL CAPS screaming across the page make you think you’re getting good info? Nope.

So, think of how you could make that communication more pleasant and inviting. The financial aid email example on the right lightens up this heavy topic by using a sunscreen metaphor. 

This approach makes financial aid more approachable rather than something to be dreaded. Try this trick the next time you need to make a complicated message more appealing and give your retention a boost in morale!

6. Storytelling Makes Experiences Stick to Overcome Issues of Retention in Education

Experiences are emotional and stick with you. That’s why one of the best ways to create meaningful, lasting experiences in your communications is to use storytelling. And that way, you can let your students make the emotional connection for you. It’s a powerful way to bust through issues of retention in education.

This Atlantic Cape Community College ad we helped produce engages students with a compelling story about a superhero — THEM!

“Superheroes aren’t born. They’re built — forged on a foundation of experience and supported by their supergroup. 

“Some superheroes are driven by circumstance, rising from the ashes of a setback to empower their communities. Some are created in labs. The one thing every superhero has in common is an origin story. 

“Atlantic Cape is a place where fantastic feats are possible, where superpowers lead to superior careers, and epic life stories begin. Join us!”

This carousel ad from Highland Community college uses powerful storytelling to boost retention in education.

Similarly, this carousel ad for Highland Community College we helped create shows students that THEY are the focus of the college’s story.

These are both great examples of inspiring retention in education with relatable messaging. With powerful storytelling, students can see themselves succeeding at your college. 

Key Takeaways for Creative Outreach and Retention Across Retention in Education 

We’re sharing our latest data and creative messaging techniques to help you better reach, engage, and motivate your students … because they need you now more than ever. We hope these simple tips will help you overcome issues of retention in education and reach more students than ever before.

Connect with Students Creatively and Boost Retention in Education with Six Simple Tips:

  1. Keep Communication Clear and Concise: Avoid academic jargon, and break up complex processes into simple steps.
  2. Get Creative with Your Connections: Leverage pet photos and mascot posts to engage students. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun!
  3. Take a Look at What’s Trending: Look to trendy social media posts to find out what makes students tick and make your messages more relatable.
  4. Connect Over Popular Culture: Don’t be afraid to be campy or retro to make your messages “pop!”
  5. Retention Marketing … Figuratively Speaking: Using metaphors and figurative language is another way to play and establish a rapport with students. 
  6. Storytelling Makes Experiences Stick for Better Retention in Education: One of the best ways to create meaningful, lasting experiences in your communications is to use storytelling.

Would you like extra support in building your enrollment and retention strategies? We’re always happy to help. Book a free consultation, or check out our services page to learn more!

About Mary DeLuca, MA, Vice President of Account Services

With 30 years of community college experience, Mary DeLuca is eager to share her creative skills and strategic insights with other 2-year college professionals. Mary developed a nationally respected communications department and successful college brand from the ground up during her leadership tenure at Maryland’s Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). Her team won an impressive collection of more than 100 NCMPR Paragon and Medallion awards. Mary has always had a flair for marrying words and images, accentuated by a Master of Arts degree in publications design, which inspires her work as an impactful organizational storyteller.

About Jamie Wagner, Executive Director of Interact’s Media Preferences Research

With over 10 years of experience in project management, event marketing, and community outreach, Jamie Wagner is an expert at building relationships and making the research experience enjoyable and stress-free. Jamie is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where she studied marketing and organizational and professional communication. She’s proud to say that Media Prefs is celebrating its sweet 16 this year! 

By Published On: May 25, 2022Last Updated: June 1, 2022Categories: InsightsTags: , , , , ,