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Posted on 21 Jul '23

Embracing the Digital-First Era: Why Make the Transition to Digital Prospectuses?

Nathan Monk is co-founder and Solutions Architect at SMILE, a digital agency for UK universities and colleges, which is currently helping universities make the transition to digital prospectuses with Prospectus Plus.

As more universities embrace digital alternatives to the paper prospectus, he lists his top reasons to consider making the switch!

In the last 50 years, the traditional prospectus has been a constant in the world of higher education. A tangible artefact, filled with the promise of knowledge, opportunity, and a glimpse into a future shaped by the institution it represents.

However, as we navigate through the 21st century, the need for a shift in how we approach prospectuses is becoming increasingly apparent. This shift is not just a trend, but a necessity.

In my recent research, I requested numerous prospectuses from various institutions to understand how the sector is adapting to these needs. This revealed that the transition to a digital-first approach is still in its early stages. While some universities are experimenting with personalised and interactive content, most still default to a simple PDF replication of what they have in print. These efforts are commendable, but there's still a long way to go!

If you’re still on the fence – or you’re having a hard time convincing others to adopt a purely digital strategy – here are five arguments for making the switch.

#1 The digital approach is sustainable

The environmental impact of printing thousands of prospectuses every year is significant. From the trees cut down for paper to the energy used in printing and distribution, the carbon footprint is substantial.

As institutions committed to shaping a better future, it's crucial that we lead by example in adopting more sustainable practices. By transitioning to digital prospectuses, we can significantly reduce our environmental impact and demonstrate our commitment to sustainability which is a significant key selling proposition for younger generation.

#2 Digital prospectuses can be personalised

Today's students expect experiences tailored to their interests and needs. A one-size-fits-all prospectus can't deliver the level of personalisation that digital platforms can.

While you could set up a system allowing students to request personalised paper prospectuses containing their chosen programmes, this isn’t sustainable either environmentally or financially. By switching to digital, we can provide prospective students with content that's relevant to them, enhancing their engagement and connection with the institution.

This level of personalisation is not just a nice-to-have, but a must-have in today's competitive higher education landscape.

#3 Digital is in demand

The modern consumer lives in a digital world. They're used to having information at their fingertips, accessible at any time, from anywhere. A printed prospectus simply can't meet this demand. By transitioning to digital, we can ensure that we're meeting our audience where they are, providing them with the convenience and accessibility they expect.

It also expands your reach to anyone in the world with an internet connection! You’re not just getting in front of people at fairs, open days or through the post (don’t forget those international postage fees), you’re instantly reaching potential students from the USA to Australia.

#4 You can make the transition gradually

The transition from paper to digital may seem daunting, but you don’t have to take the plunge all at once! The key to managing this transition is to start small, test different approaches, and continuously learn from your audience's feedback.

#5 Making the switch to digital allows for more creativity

Going digital affords universities new luxuries in what can be handed or mailed out to prospective students. We often talk about personalisation in digital, but why not in our physical marketing too? .

Arts niches could deliver branded tubes of paint asking students to make their mark. Sports specialisms could send prospectus signposting sports water bottles. Far more memorable than a 200-page catalogue!

It's important to remember that this transition is not just about technology, but about changing mindsets and embracing a new way of engaging with prospective students.

With our new service, Prospectus Plus, we're pioneering this shift with our digital-first prospectuses. As we continue to innovate and push the boundaries of what's possible, we look forward to helping more institutions make this important transition.

Keen to know more? In this recorded webinar, Nathan unpacks the evolution of the digital university prospectus so far and offers insights into future possibilities.

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