Influencing Peer Perceptions for Dummies

December 19, 2022  |  Vince Kalt


In my first post, I talked about the higher education phenomenon of bashing all things rankings while at the same time hanging your university’s hat on said rankings. No judgment, just a very real observation on marketplace behaviors.

Beyond a shadow of doubt, what others think of your university matters. As it stands right now, peer perception becomes particularly important when considering voters who cast ballots for some of the most go-to rankings sources in the industry. After all, the entirety of the 20% scoring allocation on the U.S. News & World Report ranking is based on the peer assessment score.

In BVK’s recent study “Peer Perceptions in Higher Education,” we asked the question How important is the reputation of your institution among your peers in other educational institutions? 88% of university administrators rated its importance high. That level of importance holds across both public and private universities within the top three Carnegie classifications.

Whether you like it or not, reputation matters. And when it comes to rankings, peer perception is the largest factor we can influence with marketing.

In this post, I want to move past the question of whether or not reputation and rankings matter. They do: case closed. So, to the extent possible, what can we do to influence peer perceptions? With most of the universities we work with at BVK, there is some guessing that happens. Universities focus peer and trade messaging around research expenditures, rankings and the like.

BVK’s research has shown that this may not resonate across the board, however. We took a deeper dive into topical areas with resonance. And to be honest, there was some surprise with what we found.

We asked the question: When you receive information about a peer institution (via email, articles, social media, etc.), what topics are most likely to influence whether you follow up on the information and try to learn more? Among public universities, research impact and grant activity are more of an influence.

In private universities, we see a difference in rating scores, as well as an increased importance placed on student profiles and acceptance rates. Progress in achieving student success is particularly important in shaping private university opinions of peer institutions. Fundraising successes are also more important.

We have much more information. If you’re interested in seeing the data that speaks to timing and channels, email me at [email protected] and we can talk about getting your core team up to speed on the content, channels and strategies for advancing your university’s peer reputation.



is a Senior Vice President at BVK

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