With a vision to change delivery of higher education, Northeastern University took an innovative approach to its graduate campus strategy and needed a partner to enter new markets.
Northeastern University, a top-tier research institution based in Boston, reached out to Nyhus to help expand its graduate campus initiative to Seattle. Nyhus helped Northeastern find a campus location, select an entrepreneurial leader, develop a brand identity and launch targeted PR and marketing campaigns to attract students and establish the campus within the Seattle community. Nyhus recognized that Northeastern University’s strengths in graduate education and research uniquely align with Seattle’s economic development and workforce priorities. The challenge for Northeastern University’s initial market entry was to establish a strong local presence in the Seattle market while still maintaining the university’s national and international brand.
Nyhus and Northeastern University created a flexible partnership. This partnership allowed the Northeastern team in Seattle to draw upon Nyhus’ strength as an integrated communications agency with a deep understanding of both Northeastern’s unique offering and the needs of graduate students in Seattle’s knowledge economy. Nyhus set an aggressive 9-month goal to differentiate the school in a market with established education leaders at top state universities, grow recognition of Northeastern’s unique, tailored approach to Seattle’s knowledge economy, and build enthusiasm with potential corporate partners and other civic leaders.
The tools employed to achieve these goals included:
Research: Nyhus and the Northeastern team collaborated on research that provided insights into graduate student profiles in the Seattle region. A competitive analysis and awareness survey were conducted to understand positioning of existing institutions relative to Northeastern’s offerings. One of the biggest challenges that emerged was the relative anonymity that Northeastern faced in the Pacific Northwest. Once brand development commenced, Nyhus coordinated focus groups to target messaging, refine creative execution and identify media channels to maximize Northeastern University–Seattle’s exposure.
Branding: To create local alignment with Northeastern University and provide opportunity for future growth into additional regions, Nyhus crafted the “Networked for Life” brand and campaign. The brand position and its messaging embody the values of Northeastern – innovation in delivery, global to local network and industry alignment. This brand and messaging also provide relevance to students and their intent in pursuing graduate degrees. The slogan “Your Career. Your Industry. Your Degree.” was developed to work in tandem with the “Networked for Life” brand and adapted to individual degree programs. Marketing: Nyhus’ approach was an initial rollout of broad-reach branding advertisements. These ads established Northeastern University’s name and the “Networked for Life” brand. The ads were immediately followed by targeted buys to drive lead generation for select Northeastern University–Seattle’s graduate programs. Nyhus created copy, designed templates, developed messaging and served as the creative agency for events and all media buys, including radio, web, transit and direct mail. Nyhus integrated social media by developing content strategy and recommending the most appropriate tools that best aligned with the university’s needs – LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Public Relations: In tandem with brand development and marketing, Nyhus developed a PR strategy to ensure that all audiences would receive consistent messaging about Northeastern across all touch points. In the first tier of communications, Northeastern’s national reputation was leveraged while thought leadership of local leaders gained momentum. Nyhus’ PR team developed a second tier of messaging that evolved as the university selected a location, opened its doors and welcomed its first cohort. Woven between these, media relations promoted the reputation of the school and its unique degrees and the benefits to corporate partnerships.
Public Affairs: Nyhus’ vision and influential decision-making further strengthened Northeastern University–Seattle’s credibility through event planning and management. The Salon Dinner introduced Northeastern University–Seattle to corporate, government and community leaders. A grand opening event unveiled the space and the degree areas to more than 300 attendees. A private corporate partnership event connected C-suite executives, leading non-profit and government agencies and other industry and research leaders with the possibilities of a tailored degree program.
Project Management:Throughout the account term (approximately 1 year, 8 months), Nyhus provided one dedicated account manager as the daily contact and client strategic lead. To maintain efficiency and clear communications, Nyhus requested one point of contact from Northeastern in Boston and one in Seattle. Regularly scheduled, weekly client check-ins were created to review top priorities, upcoming needs, current project status and results. Project management tools included living documents to track advertising metrics, monthly summaries mapped to account goals and weekly budget updates. Nyhus also created a one-year project map that guided the project from strategy through individual tactics. The map was revisited every quarter to evaluate areas of need and success.
As the campaign progressed, attendance at information sessions grew from a handful to more than 50 attendees per month before most degree programs were even open for registration. Northeastern University – Seattle met and surpassed its enrollment goals by 12 percent, eight months after its grand opening. Enthusiasm continued with consistent media coverage such as NPR, The Seattle Times, Crosscut, PSBJ, Xconomy and GeekWire. More than 20 articles on the university directly connected prospective, uniquely interested students with the school’s core offering of technology, games, healthcare and education. The media relations results also aided in assisting above-average click through rates and impressions for its ad buying. Ultimately, the best indication of success was the client’s satisfaction. The results were so compelling that the school is now taking the “Networked for Life” brand to a national and global scale as it continues to build out its satellite graduate campus strategy. This is coupled with a concerted effort to apply it on a local level in each new market, duplicating the integrated approach and high results established in Seattle.