Kentucky uses sports success to engage students in social media

WH: The university’s social media accounts are maintained by a team of six from UK Public Relations and Marketing. The team is comprised of staff from our health and campus news staffs, as well as members of our marketing staff. We believe the team makeup helps us provide a well-rounded view of the university community.

DT: Are students involved in helping the official social media efforts at UK? If yes, how do students get involved with the official social media program?

WH: A select group of students at UK are involved with the university’s social media efforts. Our office offers internships to students interested in advancing their social media skills.

DT: You post “Videos of the Week” on your Facebook page – videos made by UK students about the university for incoming students, as well as a series of alumni videos on your YouTube page. How do you think this affects students who are coming into the university?

WH: We use a mix of student-produced videos, as well as videos produced by our own video team. For the videos of the week and our alumni stories, we hope that we give prospective students an overarching view of what life at UK is really about. It’s not just about the classroom or just about athletics or just about campus organizations.

Our alumni are doing some amazing things throughout the state, country, and world. We really hope that students can see the sky is the limit not just while they’re attending UK, but once they’ve graduated, too.

DT: We are big fans of your campaign for recruiting students, called “See Blue.” How did this innovative platform come to be?

WH: One of the most ambitious components of UK’s promise to the Commonwealth of Kentucky is to educate more students; this means increasing the size of the freshman class and overall enrollment over the next several years. In 2006, UK Public Relations and Marketing was charged to develop and implement an aggressive marketing plan to achieve this definitive goal.

After a three-month research project with potential “customers,” high school students in the region, it became clear that UK faced several challenges in reaching its desired enrollment increase. First, there would not be enough students within the state of Kentucky to double the size of the freshman class by 2015. Second and most daunting, the research revealed a very low awareness for UK within key regional focus markets. It became clear that without strong and consistent marketing—mainly in highly competitive, non-Kentucky markets—the goal would not be met.

Market share is impossible to attain without mind share. Research showed that UK’s regional mind share was not enough to expect dramatic increases in enrollment without significant financial and human resource investment.

Based on existing research and small-scale success in these markets, it was determined that UK would continue to strengthen its brand within the state of Kentucky while also focusing resources on four specific out-of-state areas: Cincinnati, Columbus, Nashville, and Indianapolis.

Targets were high school students grades nine through 11 who had shown academic ability to enroll at UK. To reach them with our marketing messages, we developed an integrated marketing plan that tied together traditional media, non-traditional media, as well as a new outreach to key influencers: guidance counselors and UK alumni educators in the key markets.