6 Must-Attend Conferences for School Marketing Professionals
The world of marketing is constantly changing. Search engine algorithms evolve, new social media features appear, and new platforms emerge almost daily. What’s effective today, might not be effective tomorrow. So how can school marketers stay ahead of the curve?
Note: This article was originally published on the Pepperland Marketing Blog, and has been republished here with permission.
Conferences can be a powerful way to stay abreast of the latest trends, tactics, and strategies in the world of marketing—and fortunately there are plenty to choose from. To help you navigate the sea of options, we asked several education marketing professionals about their favorite conferences and what makes them great.
Who Would Benefit By Attending: While the association does have admission professional in the title the content for marketers has been increasing in amount and quality over the last few years. Anyone with the responsibility for marketing at their school would benefit from attending.
What Makes It Great: For me, the most important reason for attending is the ability to connect with other marketers, as well as admission professionals, and have in-depth conversations about what’s working, and not working for them. I use the Annual Institute as a time to step back from the daily grind and think strategically about my work for the coming year.
Tip For Attending: A truly unique part of the Annual Institute is the cohort experience that connects people while they are together and then makes it easy for them to connect all school year long. My advice is to lean in on the cohort experience and put yourself out there. I find that while I try to help my cohort group each year I end up receiving just as much help and support back all year long.
Who Would Benefit By Attending: Anyone that works in the Finalsite platform, and anyone who is making strategic marketing decisions. Finalsite works with a wide variety of schools, and primarily it seems to be independent and preparatory schools. There are a lot of schools out there who don’t have a fully staffed communications department, which is why Finalsite U is great. But no one is going to know your school like you do. Therefore, giving Finalsite the keys to control the technical web-based content, and you focusing on the marketing voice and how to cultivate that is really where the two ideas collide. Seeing how many schools are in similar situations as you are, and then working with the leaders in the independent school market, you learn how to focus on what matters.
What Makes It Great: Finalsite U is great, but it’s not as beneficial unless you are a school using Finalsite as your web vendor. There are some facets of social media and digital advertising they cover, but the best part of the conference is learning the intricacies of the newer products.
Tip For Attending: Don’t answer work emails! Being the social media director means that your inbox is going nuts during most of the day. It’s important to identify someone else who will manage accounts while you are away. I keep an away message on and I try to sit with someone new at each day or event. Force yourself to talk to people because it’s a great way to make contacts and learn new things.
Who Would Benefit By Attending: Anyone who wants to learn ways to attract new students to their school through inbound marketing, social media, and improved branding.
What Makes It Great: Having recently concluded its 8th conference, VirCon has consistently offered an incredible line-up of presenters—from in-house marketing professionals, to agencies and consultants, to marketing pros in edtech. In addition to the quality of presenters, one thing that makes this conference unique is that it’s 100% virtual. This means you can get the same amount of value as you would a traditional conference at a much lower cost and without the hassle of travel. You also get lifetime access to the conference recordings, which means you can share with your team and re-watch as many times as you like.
Tip For Attending: Don’t multi-task. Block the day to watch, just as you would if it were a normal conference. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on a ton of valuable ideas. You should also take advantage of the private Facebook group so you can network with fellow attendees both before and after the conference.
Who Would Benefit By Attending: A school marketer or admissions professional in a rather advanced office who has the tools to execute a multi-channel inbound marketing campaign.
What Makes It Great: There are a lot of basic sessions on best practices for email marketing, SEO, and social media. While you don’t have to be a HubSpot customer to benefit from the conference, the only downside is that the sessions are really focused on big market trends, and not necessarily what works for schools.
Tip For Attending: Go with at least one other person. There are literally hundreds of sessions, and it’s nearly impossible to go to every single one you want to!
Who Would Benefit By Attending: This is a fantastic fit if you are a higher ed marketing, web, or social media manager or your duties focus in those areas.
What Makes It Great: Having gone to ~20 conferences over the years, eduWeb is hands down the most tailored to digital marketing with an enrollment bend.
The quality and quantity of higher ed subject matter experts (speakers and attendees) across content and email marketing, and data and analytics, web & mobile design, and more is substantial. If you work in higher ed marketing this is not to be missed.
Tip For Attending: Go to the after hours events. It can be tempting to call it a day after a long day of sessions, but I’ve realized these events are as much a part of the conference as the sessions and they’re crucial to making connections that can help you improve your work back on your campus.
Who Would Benefit By Attending: CASE is just a really informative and dimensional group. If your hands are in education marketing or social media of some kind, you should go. There are so many versatile points of view, it’s interesting to see how many new methods, mediums and campaigns are being used out there in education marketing.
What Makes It Great: CASE was higher ed based, as I was one of only a few independent schools represented there. However, their take on social media and staying up to date with new trends, as well as the crisis communications use of social media was very informative. Coming from higher-ed initially (I was at Yale for 4 years before Choate), the ability to use students for real-time social content is such a valuable method of influence marketing. However, it allowed me to create some similar methods of real-time, influencer marketing via Finalsite Feeds.
Tip For Attending: Force yourself to talk to people because it’s a great way to make contacts and learn new things. Digital marketing is always changing, and learning from people who are in such a niche market, as we are in independent school communications, is a great way to learn about tools to be a leader in the industry or learn from one.
Some additional conferences you might find interesting include:
- Brand Together Conference – This conference is designed to inspire and motivate school communications, marketing, and admissions professionals by offering transformative perspectives and breakthrough strategies. Brand Together is an opportunity to workshop topics with real value to your school and to your own professional development.
- Carnegie Darlet Conference – This is a must-attend event for education marketing professionals to explore the relationship between marketing strategy and recruitment.
- Converge – Converge is a three day long digital marketing conference for higher education marketing and recruitment presented by Converge and SimpsonScarborough.
- AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education – The American Marketing Association’s annual gathering in which professionals can build their networks and learn how to reach students, alumni, and donors in impactful ways.
- High Ed Web – An annual conference for digital professionals in the field of higher education.
Get out there and learn
These are just a handful of the marketing-focused conferences out there that schools could benefit from, but you can trust that these will be great choices if you can only attend one or two this year.
Have another tip for getting the most out of attending? Or another conference that should be included in this list? Let us know in the comments!