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College boosts engagement by moving beyond the calendar to the event horizon

Johnson & Wales University is using Localist, a SaaS-based calendar system to promote campus events through multiple online channels and then analyze performance.

Today, students want relevant information delivered directly to their smartphones, be it through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or e-mail. They certainly don’t want to be trolling through university websites, yet this is exactly where most college event calendars lie buried. Not surprisingly, many of the listings in these calendars fail to put bums in seats.

In an effort to reach students where they live, Providence-based Johnson & Wales University has turned to Localist, a SaaS calendar solution that uses a set of APIs to push event information to multiple platforms and websites. The software also allows the school to track performance across each channel.

Schools such as J&W are increasingly looking to events to help them build relationships with their target audiences. “What we hear from our university clients is that events are the top way they connect with their audiences, especially prospective students,” said Krystal Putman-Garcia, vice president of marketing at Localist. “They can’t just show them display ads and expect them to do anything. They need to have more authentic conversations with their audiences.”

These conversations have become especially important for J&W, an erstwhile culinary school that is rebranding itself more broadly as an institution offering a wider range of majors and is now pushing into the health sciences and other areas. Localist gives J&W a way not only to reach a broader audience for its events but also to build its brand through reinforcement.

“In marketing, the buzzword is omni-channel, meaning we need to be everywhere with our brand and message and keep our story fresh in their minds,” said Ed Garabedian, manager of digital analytics at J&W. “Reinforcement is very big in our marketing strategy, and events are great because they are typically something fun—a chance to see something or taste something.”

By piggybacking off information in the school’s CRM, J&W is able to identify the appropriate audience for events and then tailor multi-channel messaging to appeal to prospective attendees. If a high school student fills out a response card indicating an interest in being a chef, for example, the school can use that data to send him information via e-mail and social media about upcoming culinary events.

(Next page: Tracking performance with Localist; the calendar widget)

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