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Why Your Community College Needs an Internal Marketing Plan

Internal marketing improves organizational effectiveness and strengthens enrollment efforts.

When community colleges focus exclusively on external marketing strategies, they often overlook one of their greatest resources: their hardworking employees. These are the people who answer the phones when students call looking for information, who lead campus tours, and who teach every day in the college classrooms. They turn “maybe” into “yes.”

Because of this, good internal marketing can positively impact your enrollment. A strong internal marketing campaign at a community college creates a solid foundation for your external marketing efforts. When everyone at your school shares a vision and mission, it is communicated much more effectively to prospective students.

Done well, an internal marketing campaign is the backbone of any enrollment marketing plan your school designs. Here are seven reasons to make sure you’re building effective internal marketing campaigns at your community college.

1. Internal Marketing campaigns refine your message.

Often in an advertising campaign or rebranding effort, your marketing team tries to distill your institutional values. But money spent on branding and marketing efforts is wasted unless you have buy-in from the relevant stakeholders.

Your faculty, employees, and current students are a great place to start as you try to identify your college’s vision. During an internal marketing campaign you can test message strategies and receive important feedback from these groups.

What matters to the people already invested in your community college? Why do they keep coming to work or to class every day? Those are the kinds of values you want to communicate to prospective students.

2. Internal marketing educates employees.

A new marketing campaign can be a good way to educate employees on the community college’s values and goals. Without cohesive institutional values, the broader community and prospective students alike may have trouble differentiating your school from the competition.

One way to present a unified message is to make sure that every employee of the college knows what your core values are. That means that important information about inclusivity, flexibility and financial support is likely to be available to every prospective student.

3. Internal marketing campaigns integrate your marketing efforts.

Strong internal marketing campaigns counteract the silo effect: a term for the tendency to compartmentalize important information in departmental ‘silos.’ The silo effect creates a devastating lack of coordination, which is one of the main reasons external marketing campaigns fail.

For instance, if the admissions office isn’t prepared to deal with an influx of calls about a CTE program promoted in an online advertising campaign, prospective students are more likely to give up.

Consistent internal messaging about ongoing enrollment efforts, available financial assistance, and institutional vision, results in better external marketing campaigns.

4. Internal marketing campaigns create community partners.

A strong internal marketing campaign can turn employees and current students into collaborative partners in reaching prospective students.

For instance, most community colleges serve a high percentage of first-generation students. Affirming internal messages about the value of first-generation students improve their college experience. And, satisfied students are powerful advocates for your school in the broader community.

Strong internal marketing creates allies and advocates within your campus community, building invaluable positive word-of-mouth.

5. Internal marketing affirms your employees.

Want to improve workforce retention and overall morale? Make sure your employees know that their contributions matter. Acknowledging employee contributions in the workplace increases job satisfaction and improves job performance.

Using your internal marketing to highlight the contributions of your professors and staff is a fast and effective way to foster a culture of positivity. Something as simple as a social media campaign that features faculty and staff achievements can make everyone feel valued.

Whether it’s a new publication or a successful student life event, affirm what each person brings to the campus community, and how they make your college exceptional.

6. Internal marketing lets staff know about professional opportunities.

Many community colleges offer continuing education or other types of enrichment opportunities for their employees. These programs can be a huge incentive to take a job at a community college in the first place.

If your school offers free or reduced tuition on certificate programs or workforce training for existing employees tell them so, regularly, with scheduled email blasts, posters, or other printed materials. When employees take advantage of these programs, everyone wins.

7. Internal marketing creates an open dialogue

Marketers know how to collect information from consumers. They can use that skill to create open channels of communication with company employees as well—something that’s well worth doing.

Employees are the most likely to know what isn’t working for current and prospective students, from something as simple as confusing signage to something larger, like trouble accessing financial aid resources.

Making sure that the valuable information your employees have gets passed on to the appropriate sources can be a boon to enrollment and retention efforts. Your college’s marketing team is ideally placed to solicit and analyze that information.

How are you doing with your internal marketing efforts?

A great internal marketing campaign can do a lot to improve your overall marketing efforts. If it’s successful, it should leave your employees, engaged, affirmed and eager.

If your internal communications are all handled by HR, or another department without the kind of strong communication skills that your marketing team has, it’s time to shake things up.

Putting together a strong internal marketing campaign can be a challenge, but done well it can strengthen all your broader enrollment marketing plan.