In higher education, 30- and 40-somethings are often marketing to 17- and 18-year-olds. That generation gap can sometimes pose a problem when it comes to effective messaging.
Siena Heights University's Office of Integrated University Marketing has taken steps to bridge that gap by including “younger eyes.” In fact, student interns are playing an increasing role in how SHU markets to prospective high school students.
Working with SHU faculty, the marketing office is developing for-credit internships in areas like graphic design, web/social media content, photography and public relations. These “built-in” focus groups provide valuable input into the minds of one of the institution's target audiences – high school students – and can even lead to job opportunities in the intern's area of interest.
“Building a student marketing team was one of my main goals when this office was established more than two years ago,” said SHU Director of Marketing Doug Goodnough. “Most colleges or universities utilize interns or student workers to help with projects. However, I wanted these interns to do more: to not only help, but provide input into what is developed out of this office.”
Goodnough said a graphic design internship was the first one established and has been very successful.
“Our graphic design faculty member, Bob Conlon, has been fantastic in sending us students who possess both the creativity and responsibility to work in our office,” Goodnough said. “We assume our interns know the design software, but being able to work with our admissions staff and academic leaders to develop print and electronic materials that will reach our target audiences, that's invaluable. We encourage them to have a voice in the creative and messaging process.”
Because of that kind of success, SHU's marketing office has expanded internship opportunities in areas like web content, public relations and photography.
Photography intern Laura Marsh said her internship has enhanced both her portfolio and her career aspirations.
“I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I like there are so many different types of photography that I do in my internship. I like the variety,” said Marsh, who operates a freelance photography business and works full-time at a bookstore besides being a college student. “I like the challenge of getting pictures of students. There's the whole time management aspect. I had to get a calendar to keep track of everything I had going on.”
“With communications being so visual these days, having someone with Laura's ability and perspective has been fantastic,” Goodnough said. “We constantly have a need for good photos for projects and the web site, and she has made an instant impact in that area.”
And besides the course credit, the experience interns receive will hopefully pay future dividends for the student.
“It's got me thinking about more of what I want to do,” Marsh said. “I knew I wanted to go into photography, but I wasn't sure what. Doing this (internship) has made me think I really would like to work for a marketing department or newspaper.”
“Our graphic design intern we had last fall, Angie Raymond, did such a nice job for us that a local newspaper hired her in January – and she doesn't even graduate until May,“ Goodnough said. “That‘s how valuable on-the-job work experience can be to employers. It's the best case scenario for the intern.
“Some day I would love to have an entire student marketing team. We are getting some of that student input now, but to have a group of these students sit down in an organized way and evaluate how we communicate with prospective students would be marketing at its best.”