Beware the parents, says popular thought leader Jeff Kallay. They’ve morphed from the relatively benign helicopters to more savage stealth bombers, and you’d better be prepared to make a good case for why they should pay all that money to send their kids to your school.
Today’s college-bound students are the offspring of Generation Xers, who are more cynical, skeptical and stealthy than the parents of your previous classes. So forget the hype, be authentic, demonstrate your return-on-investment, said Kallay in a rousing conclusion to TargetX’s Xpert Summit — the company’s annual event for users of its technology and consulting services.
Kallay’s concluding keynote was not the first time many of the attendees thought about parents during the two-day conference. In fact, improving communication with parents was a recurring theme during several of the sessions.
Even in discussions that were purely about technology, people had their minds on strengthening bonds with parents. When asked how TargetX could make its CRM tool even more valuable to colleges, one client suggested a way to create email content for students and parents simultaneously — so that schools could be sure they were communicating effectively with both generations.
Clients seemed delighted that developers were already at work on ways to target parents through the company’s Student Recruitment Manager.
But not all admissions officers are as committed to parent communication as Xpert Summit attendees, and Trent Gilbert can’t figure out why. “Mom and Dad are the student’s best friends, and they’re playing more of a critical role in the college choice than ever before,” said TargetX’s Chief eXperience Officer and Kallay’s colleague in the company’s consulting division. “Higher ed is still missing the boat when it comes to creating a communication stream for these influencers.”
So devote more time and effort to reaching out to parents, then think about the next group. “Grandparents,” said one attendee, “are playing a bigger role than ever.”
Read more about our authors. Ray Ulmer, public relations director at TargetX, has been involved in higher education marketing for more than 25 years, including serving as executive director of communications at La Salle University and director of public relations at Drexel University. He has also worked in corporate marketing and advertising.