Five Common On-Campus Advertising Mistakes

Michele Warg
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Whether you are trying to get students to attend an event or to check out your job postings, avoid these frequently made mistakes.

1. Wasting time and money on advertising that doesn't reach your target audience

Newspapers and bulletin boards may seem like great places to advertise, but do you know which day most students actually read the campus newspaper? And if they do read it, do they even notice the ads from employers? Before you spend thousands of dollars, ask ten students if they remember a recent advertisement and whether or not it got any of them to attend an event or apply for a job.

Before you put up posters, ask students if they look at the bulletin boards. Find out which walls attract more eyeballs than the others, and know when the boards are cleared. One employer put posters up on every board at an East Coast university before he left campus on a Friday afternoon. Too bad the boards are completely cleared every Sunday evening, before students fill the halls again.

Even if you decide to stick with sending e-mails through your superconnectors, find out when students are most likely to read them. Organizations often have success sending e-mails to students on Sunday because students have more time for e-mail then than they do during the week and are more likely to be at their computers working on Sunday than Saturday.

2. Leaving students confused about who you are and what you're hiring for

If you are not Nike, Coca-Cola, or McDonald's, you have to briefly but clearly and memorably say what your company does. Even if you do have a recognized brand like IBM, you want to specify which division is recruiting and what it does, especially if it's not your core business unit. Investment banks have problems recruiting for their technology departments because students don't think technology when they see the name of a bank.

Don't list the boring and confusing titles of jobs that accounting or Human Resources uses for internal purposes. Use job titles or descriptions that students can understand. Nobody knows or cares what Engineer I or Technology Specialist Level II means, but they do like to see Design Engineer or Marketing Analyst.

3. Not targeting a specific group of people

If you're seeking juniors to apply for summer internships, make your intent clear. Don't waste time trying to get your announcement on the class mailing list of a senior seminar. If freshmen or sophomores see an ambiguous recruiting advertisement, they assume they aren't welcome. The same goes with majors: If you don't specifically say, "All majors are invited," the only students to attend will be those who think what they study is aligned with your core business.

Many premed and prelaw students want to take time off before entering graduate school. McKinsey and other consulting firms have picked off some great talent by putting out ads that say, "Before you go to law school, come to McKinsey." And, of course, they have groups like the student law society and the political science department distribute the message.

4. Not calling students to action

You're not in the business of making Super Bowl commercials that just remind people that Doritos exist. You're advertising for a reason, so tell students exactly what you want them to do: Apply at this Web site. Come to this room at this time.

5. Not mentioning the good stuff

In Boston, Mike's Pastry is famous, and any event on campus that offers free dessert from Mike's Pastry is going to draw a crowd. If your CEO is attending or you're giving away a new car or an iPod, proclaim it in your ads!

Copyright © Chris Resto, Ian Ybarra, and Ramit Sethi, 2007


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  • Philinda
    I feel so much happier now I understand all this. Thanks!

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