Talk to the people who will listen.

It’s likely there are many people your school wants to talk to. Prospective students. Their parents. Alumni. Faculty and staff. The community. They all have different needs and need different messages. There’s so much to be said, in fact, that it can be tough to know what to say, and when to say it. It’s a big job, but here are a few quick tips to help you sort it all out:

Get to know your audience.
You can probably already list the general groups of people that your institution needs to communicate with. But it’s important not to stop at broad definitions. Take prospective students for example. Who is your ideal student? Who will do best in your program? What type of person are they? What matters to them? What are the types of things they need to know about you? What are the misperceptions they have about you? Understanding exactly who you’re talking to makes it easier to know what to say to them.

Understand who—and what’s—most important.
The concept of prioritizing is simple. Decide where your communications will have the most impact, and focus the majority of your time there.

It gets sticky in practice, though, doesn’t it? All of your audiences need info. And with everyone demanding communications, it’s easy to forget who your priority audience is. That’s why it’s so important to keep your focus. Post a reminder of who your priority audience is in a prominent place. Before you do anything else in a day, make sure you’re doing something to reach that audience. Everything else can come second.

Tailor your message.
You’ve figured out who’s most important to talk to. You know who they are and what they need. Now say what they need to hear. Write down key messages for each audience, and keep them handy. Make sure you’re using them consistently. Repetition is key.

Don’t be afraid to leave somebody out.
Ever heard of Vans? Do you own a pair of them? If the answer is no to either, we’d guess you’re not into board sports or BMX or you’re just too old. In other words, you’re not their target audience. (That’s totally ok, because a pair of checkerboard slip-ons probably wouldn’t work with your business suit anyway.)


Great brands—Vans included—know who they’re talking to and don’t worry about talking to anyone else. They know that to make a connection, people need messages that feel personal. They know that when you’re talking to everyone, you’re talking to no one.

This can be tough to remember when you’re trying to motivate people to act. You want to recruit students! You want to get donations! You need numbers! But not targeting an audience means that you’re speaking in terms too general to catch anyone’s attention. Remember—not everyone can pull off a pair of Vans, and not everyone is a fit for your school. That’s exactly as it should be.

Talk only to your target audience.
This is actually just the same point as above. But it’s the most important one and worth reiterating. Because targeting your audience does three things:

  1. It attracts the type of people you want (who will excel at your school, go on to find success, and tell all their friends about it).
  2. It attracts the type of people who want to be like the people you want. (Not quite as good as group one, but still not bad).
  3. It weeds out the type of person you don’t want (and who won’t be happy at your school or do well there).

Keeping these things in mind means that the people you want to hear you, will hear you. Need help defining your audience and what matters to them? Send us a note.

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