U of M using student blogs as recruitment tool

Leveraging the youth-friendly medium, current students and alumni are sharing their views about the campus with prospects.

This fall, prospective students got the skinny on the University of Manitoba direct from the mouths – or, rather, keyboards – of those who know best. Since mid-October, 16 U of M students and alumni have been sharing their experiences through individual blogs at www.itsmyfuture.ca.

Developed by Winnipeg-based McKim Cringan George with the university’s public affairs department and in cooperation with the faculty, the site is intended as a recruitment tool to attract undergrads. Supporting outdoor, transit, print and radio advertising drives traffic to the site, which is also linked through the university’s home page.

‘It’s a pretty competitive environment, here in the city of Winnipeg. In particular, there’s another university that’s been very aggressive in their marketing, and there’s a terrific college of applied arts and sciences as well,’ says Peter George, president/COO at McKim Cringan George, which handled both the creative and the media buy for the province-wide campaign.

Blogs are the perfect medium to give an unbiased portrayal of what the university has to offer students, as well as its role in the larger community, he says. ‘We didn’t just want people we knew would be really promotional. We wanted to paint an honest picture, which I think is the most compelling thing.’

According to MCG statistics, the site attracted more than 60,000 page views by over 6,500 visitors in the first four weeks, with 85% of viewers directly entering the URL rather than coming from other sites. The average visitor looks at six pages per visit, with 37% of visitors staying on the site between two and five minutes and 24% staying longer.

George adds that, while the fall campaign was timed to coincide with the start of the application planning process, he won’t have numbers on actual recruitment until registration starts next summer. The blogs will continue through the year, with a second wave of promotional support expected sometime in 2008. George hopes to expand the program to include faculty and graduate student recruitment in the future.