Film Series Anchors Marketing Efforts

| September 1, 2011


Sweet Briar College has just released a third marketing video, “A Leader of Tomorrow,” completing a cycle of films that started in fall 2010. All three may be viewed on the College’s YouTube channel.

The series is constructed so that each builds on the last, creating an identifiable trajectory, says President Jo Ellen Parker.

“The first one, ‘A Sweet Briar Woman,’ introduces viewers to the campus as a spectacular place where young women strive for excellence,” Parker blogged. “The second one, ‘She Will Change the World,’ showcases the transformative relationships students establish with Sweet Briar faculty members. And this third and newest one emphasizes students’ intellectual and professional aspirations for their lives after graduation.”

First and foremost, the films are intended to attract prospective students. But the challenge is also to convey a compelling message to parents, prospective donors and alumnae. The videos put a spotlight on the strong inherent advantages of an all-women’s institution as well as a supportive, close-knit learning community where everyone — faculty, alumnae and staff — is personally committed to students’ success.

Parker says each time she watches one, “My pride and enthusiasm for the College are turned up yet another notch.”

The films are integral to a coordinated marketing effort that includes a new website, redesigned magazine, view book and related materials, and alumnae correspondence such as annual fund mailers. Sponsorships on Blue Ridge PBS beginning this week to promote the latest film are also part of the mix. The campaign began last summer, with some of the biggest pieces, including the website and first film, being released in late fall 2011.

Final enrollment numbers for 2011-2012 — the first recruiting period since the rollout began — won’t be determined until late September. However, last fall the College saw a dramatic 20-percent increase in inquiries from prospective students over 2009, and the upward trend continues when comparing 2010 to 2011. On the development side, the alumnae giving rate has remained even despite the challenging economy and the College exceeded its annual fund goals for fiscal year 2011 by more than $26,000.

Heidi Hansen McCrory, vice president for alumnae and development, isn’t drawing conclusions, but she does think marketing plays a role.

“Certainly, marketing from the College in the form of the videos, new admissions materials, website, etc. is important to keeping donors reminded about us, and excited about what’s going on,” she says.

Marketing director Zach Kincaid also takes a guarded view. “So many factors influence these measures, especially enrollment,” he said. “We’re encouraged by the numbers we’re seeing, but we’re also always thinking about what we’re going to do next to get our message out there. Sweet Briar is a great college where women flourish, and we want people to know that.”



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