The 3 R’s in Higher Ed: Brand New Strategies in a Brand New World

September 11, 2020  |  Tamalyn Powell


As if higher education wasn’t experiencing enough troubled waters with the enrollment bust and changes in the basis admissions “rules of engagement” (NACAC Rule Changes), along comes this thing called COVID-19.

Wow. It’s a lot. For anyone. For everyone. Never mind an industry that really does not welcome change. Of any sort. Even the good kind.

The calls we are getting at BVK today are those seeking counsel on the “new best practices” following this black swan event. But therein lies the rub. This is new, to all of us. There are no “best practices” to share. Not yet.

But what we do have are the insights we’ve gathered that can help us understand today’s mindset and inform what tomorrow’s best practices will likely be. Not just for recruiting new prospects in an already compromised and shrinking pool, but for retaining those students you already have.

Tapping into national research and trend data, BVK has developed insights that consider what we know about COVID-19 in real time and that accommodate for the shift we are seeing in cultural values both pre- and post-coronavirus. These insights are reflected through the lens of our predominantly Gen Z audience.

Additionally, the insights include what has turned out to be a rather significant shift in the rules of conduct as relates to new admissions strategies. Yield, even in a post-pandemic world, takes on a level of importance unlike anything the industry has previously known. Branding and marketing will be more vital than ever – coincidentally at a time when the very budgets and/or staff to support these initiatives might likely be compromised due to the pandemic.

So, what we are telling our clients is that we have now entered the age of “Brandtailing” (think Branding + Retail) or BrandGen (think Brand Value + Demand Generation messaging). Now isn’t the time to do what you have always done – even if it has worked well in the past

It’s a brand new world and new world for brands. This is uncharted territory that will require adjustments for everyone, from meek to maverick. It’s time to tell your brand story in a more tangible way that demonstrates to prospective audiences as well as current students why they should put their proverbial eggs in your college/university basket.

This is a time to get back to the basics – the 3 R’s in Higher Education. But not the ones that you might think. It’s a time to:

  1. Reassure – students/parents, faculty and staff that your institution is prepared
  2. Redefine – your institutions brand value (think same value, new narrative)
  3. Recommit – to student success in what will likely be the new normal

You can do this. And we can help.

If you would like me to share our insights for new retention and recruitment strategies, just drop me a message or click here to go to to download it directly. Let’s talk. We are in this together.


is a Senior VP, Group Account Director at BVK

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