Should My School Pause Advertising During COVID-19?
Kristen Doverspike

Everything we thought we knew about school marketing and communications has changed drastically in the last few months. As the world adjusts to remote working and sequestered living, our messages have become more mindful of the times —  and in a positive light, we’ve become more community-focused. 

Questions have been pouring into our inboxes like “Can we still post on social media?”, “How should we use video?”, “How can we keep our community informed and engaged?” and “How can our admissions team continue recruiting and enrolling?”. Our team at Finalsite has given a lot of thought to how we can help guide you with answers to these questions to help you move forward and to help you feel confident about your outlook and your school's online presence in the future.

Most recently, we have begun to see concerns around advertising, like “Is it in poor taste to advertise during this time?” or “How can we be sensitive to COVID-19 concerns while continuing to prospect?” To help answer these questions, and others, we went live on Instagram with two of our advertising experts. We wanted to share a recap of everything we learned, and you can view the full video conversation on IGTV here.

Social Media Advertising

With Darrian Collevechio, social media consultant at Finalsite:

Q: Do I have to stop all social media advertising in light of COVID-19?

A: Most importantly, our recommendation is that you do not have to stop advertising. Remember that a lot of parents are at home, still planning for next year and hoping for the best. So, it’s a really good opportunity for your school to be present on social — where [families] are spending a lot of their time.

By continuing advertising:

  1. Your audience is reassured by your online presence; and
  2. You’re projecting confidence, a positive outlook and that you’re still planning to tackle the next academic year in full force.

Q: What ads should I pause or change?

A: If you do have a lot of ads that are active right now, you might want to give [these ads] a once-over. 

A lot of school campuses are closing, and even without that, most areas are practicing social distancing. So, make sure you don’t have any calls-to-action (CTAs) about visiting campus or about scheduling tours.

Q: How can I continue to recruit families in our social advertising?

A: We’ve seen many schools begin to find unique ways to tap into virtual tours. So, if you do have an extensive [virtual tour option] built out, definitely capitalize on that. Encourage parents to get that on-campus experience without actually needing to leave their homes.

Along with that, most schools have a YouTube channel that has at least one or two videos that highlight their campuses, so I definitely recommend digging back into the archives [and using one of those in your ads]. Even pulling out a throwback video from two to three years ago that still reflects your campus [can work]. It’s a good time to leverage [this content] so that parents can visualize your campus.

Click here to download the webinar: how to provide an engaging virtual admissions experience

Q: Are there any other general best practices my school can take on during this time?

A: Something else to consider is what kind of photo assets you have available — anything of your campus, your admissions staff — and thinking about how you can use the photos that you have and leveraging them to build more of a personal connection. So maybe you don’t have a video of a virtual tour, but you have ten really great photos of your campus. You can build these into a social media carousel, so that users can click through and still get that virtual experience. Really look at your resources and see how you can [use them] to make a personal connection with parents.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising 

With Sarah Englebert, SEO & PPC consultant at Finalsite:

Q: Should I keep my PPC ads running?

A: Yes! But be sure, like Darrian had mentioned [for social media], that you are removing any CTAs that mention visiting campus.

Q: What optimizations can I make for my PPC ads to still be effective?

A: If you have ads running right now, it’s important [to first consider] your landing page. If you don’t already have a pop-up on your admissions or inquiry pages, I highly recommend adding one. Highlighting something like, “Hey! We have an online inquiry form, here’s a link,” and adding the contact information for your admissions team. Being as specific as possible lets parents know that you’re still there and are still active.

Q: What can I do with my virtual tours or video assets?

A: Definitely embed them on your site. If you have them uploaded to YouTube, you can embed them easily through Composer. Video consumption is through the roof right now, especially since so many people are at home. So even if you don’t have an official virtual tour video, I still recommend using any videos you have for your ad landing pages.

Q: Should we still promote all of our divisions?

A: Yes, I recommend keeping those ads [live]. The cycle for parents to enroll is very long. Some are working from home, some aren’t. But regardless, I’m seeing that they are still researching a a variety of school types.

Key Takeaway

While it may feel like you can’t promote your school during this uncertain time, this can be a great opportunity if you execute a well-thought-out digital marketing strategy. For both social media and PPC, creatively using assets you already have — like video tours and campus photos — is a great way to introduce your school to prospective families without requiring them to visit in-person. 

Ultimately, it is recommended that you reconsider all of your current ads, remove any calls-to-action that mention on-campus visits, and simply be human. Now more than ever, families are at home doing research online, and your advertising efforts may be just what takes them from the consideration stage to the enrollment stage. 

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kristen doverspike headshot

In her position as Inbound Marketing Manager, Kristen provides the strategy and creation of content across email, website and social media communications at Finalsite. With over five years of experience in content strategy and digital marketing, Kristen has worked with clients around the country to develop their branding, SEM, SEO, social media, and inbound efforts. She holds and maintains a number of certifications from Google, Hubspot, and Hootsuite

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