When it comes to communicating with prospective students, consider reaching them through video.

About 65 percent of high school students — notoriously a hard demographic when it comes to grabbing and keeping their attention — watch YouTube daily. Another 75 percent said they rely on YouTube videos to provide them with real information. So while they may be clicking on viral cat videos or the latest Taylor Swift music hit, they’re still relying on the video network for actual information.

How can we, as admissions and communications professionals, harness that channel to get our messages across to teens? Make something that they actually want to watch! Simple enough, right?


Stand out in the crowd

First and foremost, communicators need to understand the aspects of our institution that make us unique and stand out from the dozens of other schools high school students may be looking at.

As video producers, it’s our job to shape those messages into videos our audience will actually want to watch. (Pro tip: it includes as few talking heads as possible!)

What makes a compelling video that will still get your message across? Good old-fashioned storytelling.

Here at Union College, one of the hallmarks of our education is that it’s innately interdisciplinary. So while at many schools you can study music and medicine at the same time, at Union those two subjects will come together in new ways for a research project or senior thesis. Sounds great, right? While we think it sounds great, a talking head saying that on camera isn’t that compelling. Instead, we let our students share their stories.

Show don’t tell

Every young journalist learns the “show don’t tell” principle — and that’s exactly what video can do. At Union, we show how students are learning across many subjects and how it’ll impact them in their life going forward. A good place to start is highlighting your academic programs. According to mStoner, 73 percent of teen prospects said “videos about academic programs” are very important during the research phase.

Take a look at two of our academic videos:

Notice that neither piece shows a sit down interview with the students, faculty, or administrators. We wanted to use the entire two minutes to show, not tell.

Some other examples of using storytelling to hit your marketing points:

Faculty mentors:

Alumni profile (to demonstrate ROI, the value of a Union degree):

As you can see, it’s not all about the talking heads. Think less about how many college officials and students you can cram into one piece for sound bites. Instead, pick individual stories that illustrate your point. And watch the views go up.


Christen Gowan is associate director of media relations and social media at Union College. She provides strategic social media planning for the college with special considerations given to growing audiences and brand awareness. She writes, edits and posts content to the Union College website, serving as project manager for most multimedia and video produced on behalf of the College. She also shoots and edits photos for social media channels, accompanying news stories online, and the College’s alumni magazine


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