Communication Tools for the New School Year
Email is just one way that student housing firms are preparing students for move-in. Find out what other tools they will be using.
During the past few weeks, a new crop of students has flooded into off-campus housing in many markets around the country.
For Eddie Moreno, Executive Vice President at The Cardinal Group Operations, communication is the key to making a great first impression on these new residents. Cardinal’s teams used social media, texting, web posts and emails to communicate as early and often as possible leading up to move-in day.
“While there is a heavy focus on the community’s readiness, we are also focusing on preparing our residents for move-in day, via a series of email correspondence throughout the summer and a five-part ‘Welcome Home’ video series covering expectations and tips and tricks to make move-in day smoother,” Moreno says.
Cardinal developed the five-part video series to help to prepare each resident for what they should expect and what they need to do on move-in day.
“As we have seen in years past, providing multiple layers of advance communication ensures that a large majority of residents are ready when they step in line to get their keys,” Moreno says. “This also enables our communities use a ‘Fast Pass’ line to expedite the process, leaving a smaller group of outliers to work with one on one.”
Once students move in, communication remains critically important. Last year, Landmark Properties switched to text-based communication with residents, prospects and their parents. In the year ahead, all of Landmark’s teams will use the software to help it stay in constant contact with these groups.
“Initially, we put more emphasis on text-message when following up with prospects this year,” says Rob Dinwiddie, Vice President of Leasing and Marketing at Landmark. “Secondly, we added texting links to our websites so that prospects could contact us via text more easily. We adapted our sales training to hone in on techniques that previously we used over the phone and that we could adapt to use for text-based conversations.”
Dinwiddie does not know if the texting software will save Landmark money, but he does think it will make life easier for Landmark’s associates.
“Text-based communication is native to our student workers so they feel more comfortable engaging in text message conversations than they do speaking over the phone,” he says. “We’re also engaging with our prospects on the platform that they’d prefer to be engaged on as opposed to a follow up phone call for instance that may feel foreign to our student prospects.”
Cardinal is also focusing on students as communicators, expanding the use of micro-influencers on social media.
“It’s no secret that our residents are on social media, and that they are increasingly skeptical of direct, often termed ‘spammy’ advertising,” Moreno says. “Knowing that, we believe that social influencers are a key to delivering the brand message and value proposition to the resident without overtly marketing the community to our potential residents.”
For Pierce Education Properties, reputation management is the focus this year. The company is piloting systems that will not only track reviews, but also send responses.
“We have been doing replies ourselves for years,” says Maureen A. Lannon, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Pierce. “Now that we have more properties than ever, we are trying a reputation management platform to see if it fits.”