In the weeks leading up to the birth of HRH Prince George of Cambridge, reporters from all over the world camped out in front of St. Mary’s hospital in London in anticipation of a very special and historic “information session” – the kind that only comes around every 30 years or so. Royal watchers wanted to know: When would the bundle of joy arrive? Would it be a prince or princess? How much would he or she weigh?
It was a closely-watched, celebrated milestone for the British monarchy. It was also a jolly good lesson for business schools on how to build brand excitement. Without further ado, here are some regally-inspired ideas for your next MBA information session.1. Build Suspense
Take a page out of the royal playbook. Create engagement through anticipation.
The birth of a future king of England (however symbolic the role in today’s world) was always going to attract a lot of attention, but the fervor intensified following William and Kate’s decision to not know (or tell) the gender. Royal fans couldn’t wait to find out if it was going to be a boy or a girl. Then, once the joyous day arrived, everything we wanted to know (gender, name, what the newborn looked like) was revealed "drip by drip" over a number of days keeping followers glued to their Twitter feeds.
To boost attendance at your next MBA information session, think the ways you can create the same level of anticipation. For example, mention on your social media accounts that you’ll unveil an exciting new program feature at the next information session. Or, give a tease on your website or lead nurturing campaign about alumni or student speakers. Spark curiosity by including messaging such as “you’ll meet one of our students from the fastest growing business in the country" or “you’ll learn how a marathon-winning alumna leveraged her skills of endurance to successfully balance part-time MBA studies with a busy job.” Think about something unique and fascinating about each of your student and alumni presenters so prospects with busy schedules and competiting distractions for their time can’t resist signing up to learn more.
As humans, we are programmed to not want to miss out. Create messaging that draws prospects to the information session like reporters to St. Mary’s Hospital.
2. Be relatable
William and Kate drew admiration from observers for their relative sense of normalcy as they were photgraphed on the hospital steps with their newborn son. Here was William (whose father reportedly has servants squeeze his toothpaste) singlehandedly snapping in the car seat (how did he do that so effortlessly?) and then taking the wheel himself (without chauffeur) to drive his family home. True, it was a Range Rover, but the couple drew a connection with us "commoners" watching at home through their ordinary actions and attire. They also added a touch of empathy. As Kate said, “It’s such a special time. Any parent will know what this feeling is like.”
When speaking to prospective MBA students at information sessions, be sure to connect on a personal level rather than simply imparting information from “school to student.”
As a presenter, mention your own experiences when you researched and applied to graduate school (if it applies). Show that you empathize with participants during this exciting and sometimes overwhelming time. There’s plenty of program information to get across, but people buy from people - not institutions.
3. Leverage a combination of “new” and “old” in your marketing collateral
For centuries, protocol dictated the announcement of a royal birth on a ceremonial easel outside Buckingham Palace. For the first time in royal history, in keeping with this very modern couple, the announcement first went out via digital press release and then was hand delivered by a palace aide and placed on an ornate easel outside the Palace. Even with the news digital transmitted, crowds still gathered to read the news the old-fashioned way.
People prefer information in different formats so think of ways you can blend the old with the new in your MBA information sessions to appeal to divergent learning styles and preference as well as to create variety and keep attention. For example, add a catchy infographic to your traditional PowerPoint to show your MBA program stats in a fun and entertaining way. Here is an example from UNC Kenan-Flagler (posted on Facebook):
4. Develop aspirational content
Why were millions of people entranced by the arrival of the third in line to the British throne?
"It's because of the pomp, the prestige, the glamour, the glitz,” said Michigan State University Professor and Pop culture Expert Gary Hoppenstand. “There is a fairy tale element that's involved there…it allows us to engage and indulge in something we really don't have here."
When it comes right down to it, there’s a "professional" fairy tale element in considering and applying to business school. Future leaders are attracted to the promise of attaining their hopes and dreams and the purposeful power that comes with having those 3 prestigious letters next to their name (in this case MBA rather than HRH).
Keep the tone and messaging of your presentation aspirational. Tell stories like this one of from USC Marshall School of Business on how your students have reached their dreams:
Nowadays, prospective students can find a lot of the information about your MBA program online. Take the precious 60 to 90 minutes you have in person to get your message across in a way that makes every minute count. Show why your b-school offers the best value proposition to make their professional fairy tale come true.
What ideas do you have for #5 on this list?