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Sam ThorsonJanuary, 24, 20224 min read

How Storytelling Delivers Results in College Recruitment Marketing

Marketing to prospective students has become a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have admissions and fees increasing to accommodate for expenses, and on the other, enrollment rates decline as a result – and it’s not a trend that’s slowing down.

Students have so many options post-high school – with not attending college being a more popular one. So, what do you do?

What they need is to see something deeper than dollar signs. Something that speaks to them. They need a good story. Storytelling is a significant tool that advertisers and marketers use to deliver their message. There are many ways to tell a good story, and we’re here to help you share yours.

Before we do that, we want to share others. Below are examples of university’s using story to attract students:

Feeling motivated yet? That’s exactly what storytelling can do for your brand and prospective students.

But what makes a good story?


Stories don’t just grab people’s attention – they resonate. The long-lasting stories are the ones that have a strong message and resonate deeply. Plus, anything with an engaging narrative is far more memorable that simply stating facts and information.

In fact, Cognitive Psychologist Jerome Bruner suggests that telling stories can be as much as 22 times more memorable that reading facts. Stories are descriptive and paint images in our minds that stick with us long after we’ve taken the journey. Whether you’re advertising on a billboard, in television, or on social channels, be sure to take your audience on a journey.

In marketing, having memorable content is only half the battle.


The best stories are the ones that hold true. True to your organization. And anyone that can find their truth in the story. Shared experiences and values are easily identifiable through storytelling. Here are some questions to consider when recruiting:

  • What kind of students do we want to attract?
  • What kind of persona to we want to project?
  • What fields of study do we want to promote?

Testimonials are a great way to answer those questions. Focusing on former or current student in your campaign can create familiarity and authenticity. These people can share their ideas, talents and lists of achievements they’ve earned form your institution. It also adds credibility to your programs and marketing.,

Forge a Connection

This plays into memorability. Storytelling has the ability to connect with people on a personal, emotional level. People love a great story. Unlike reading just the facts, which engages the language region of your brain, hearing a story engages the parts that you would use if you were actually experiencing the events in story.

Connecting your message to prospective students is easier when people are emotionally invested.

Tips for Sharing Stories

Let’s say you have an amazing story that you can’t wait to share. There are several ways you can get it out to your audience. Make sure to utilize all your social media channels. Remember to tag whoever is relevant to the story and make sure you tailor the copy to fit the plat form and top it all off by including your hashtag.

Share the story with the respective academic department and encourage them to share the story on their website, newsletters, publications and during campus visits.

Pitch the story to the respective student’s hometown media. Feature the story in your recruitment pieces and include them in your internal and external communication channels. You can even repurpose the story at a later date whenever it’s relevant or applicable.

A good example of an impactful story comes from the Leader in Action campaign we shared above. It’s been seen more than 60,000 times. Each story resonates differently on each channel, but generally, we’ve seen:

  • Facebook videos receive 637 percent more impressions and 480 percent more engagements than Facebook photo stories.
  • Instagram posts garner three times more impressions than Instagram stories.
  • Twitter videos and photos perform equally well.
  • Stories receive a similar volume of impressions on Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Stories receive an average of 570 unique views/year on the UND microsite.
  • A story averages 431 views on YouTube.

What helps makes a strong campaign? A strong story. But not just any story. A story rooted in truth that resonates with your desired students. A story that connects deeply will have a greater chance of sticking with the reader for long after they’ve clicked off your site. This can motivate them to tell their own story, inspire others, and reinforce your impact.

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Sam Thorson

Sam specializes in Higher Education marketing strategies. He works hand in hand with university and college admissions and marketing teams to set goals, launch campaigns, and analyze results. With over 7 years of digital, content, and general marketing experience, Sam dedicates himself to connecting modern marketing strategies to higher education institutions.