Marketing budget aims to brand Eastern

Logan Raschke, Managing Editor

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*Editor’s Note: This is the first of two stories following up on CUPB’s Nov. 1 meeting. This story details Josh Norman’s presentation on the university’s strategic enrollment planning and marketing budget allocations. The next story will detail Paul McCann’s presentation on FY20/21 budgets.

Eastern is working with a $465,000 budget with Central States Media to distribute media advertising and a budget just under $100,000 with Fine Line on the printing side of the universities’ marketing. Josh Norman, associate vice president for enrollment management, presented to the Council on University Panning and Budget Nov. 1 marketing tactics and budgeting for Eastern.

Media allocation by tactic

Norman said the university is marketing through Central States Media on a number of social, streaming and radio services including YouTube and network television. Eastern is also working with Fine Line Storefront for print.

The marketing budget is $465,000 with Central States Media; the total budget is $500,000, but the rest of the funds go to administration. Just under $100,000 is being spent on Fine Line pieces, Norman said.

“This is a huge deal because there’s more money than ever going directly to media,” Norman said.

Something Norman said is absolutely crucial for Eastern to do with its marketing is to work toward becoming “brand succinct,” which the Fine Line Storefront will help the university with. It comes down to being more recognizable to prospective students.

Norman said the marketing materials Eastern sends out all looks different, which actually hinders the university becoming more brand succinct.

Fine Line handles much of the university’s print. For this cycle, Eastern launched dynamic variable printing, which prints the prospective students’ names on the cards they receive, Norman said.

A branding piece the Thornburn Group created for Eastern was “All In.” Norman said the branding reflects the university’s philosophy.

“This branding that came from the Thornburn Group, it come from our alums, it came from our students, it came from our passionate faculty; that’s why I love it, because that’s who we are,” Norman said.

Strategic enrollment planning goals

Norman said conducting new strategic enrollment planning is necessary every year in order to increase freshman and transfer enrollment.

Out of 92 action plans in this cycle to increase freshman, transfer and graduate enrollment, Norman said about 93 percent of them are either complete or in progress while 7 percent are uninitiated, he said. Considering the cycle is only three months in, Norman said he was pleased with the progress being made so far.

Norman said Eastern has seen a “subtle rebound” in enrollment within the last few years, citing dual-credit partnerships, growth in graduate schools and increases in freshmen and transfers as important influences.

“Dual-credit is absolutely a strategic initiative for us,” Norman said. “Our goal is to reach 9,000 students and become a beacon for student success in Illinois and, moreover, the country.”

What Eastern is up against

Norman said the 10-year slide in enrollment could be boiled down to these factors: college-bound outmigration, increased competition and the Great Recession.

In 2016 and 2017, 48 percent of students in Illinois enrolled in out-of-state universities for their higher educations.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, total undergraduate enrollment decreased by 7 percent between 2010 and 2017, but it is expected to increase by 3 percent between 2017 and 2028.

In 2018, 94 institutions represented the Chicago area and 131 representatives were out recruiting prospective students, Norman said.

For high-achieving seniors in high school, he said many of them are receiving hundreds of dollars worth in marketing for other universities that are not Eastern.

Norman said many people opted to not having children around 2005 and 2006 during the Great Recession, which means strategic enrollment planning will be important in the mid-2020s.

More budgeting information

Not including scholarships, personnel and direct expenditures, enrollment management, dual-credit, admissions, registrar, marketing communications (web services and marketing) and financial aid are the major components to budgeting for strategic enrollment planning, Norman said.

Last year, $2.5 million was budgeted for personnel and $625,092 was budgeted for direct expenditures for enrollment management. Enrollment management covers the registrar, financial aid and marketing communications.

Norman said the two groups taking up the most money in direct expenditures are admissions and marketing communications.

Eastern’s admissions counseling service more than 2,000 high schools across Illinois, and to do so requires a lot of traveling, Norman said. Eastern has nine freshman admissions counselors and three transfer admissions counselors with a transfer relations department.

Norman said the employees working in marketing communications develop Eastern’s web software, update websites and produce marketing videos.

Logan Raschke can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].