Suzanne Grigalunas
Enrollment Marketing Strategist

How to Leverage Storytelling on Your Campus Tour

A memorable tour starts and ends with a compelling story

Your campus visit is the single most impactful conversion point in your prospective student’s college search. It’s your chance to show off all that is unique and authentic about your campus and community. Prospective students are there to soak up the campus and all its offerings – the vibe, the sights, the sounds, the food, and the people.

Yet so many colleges and universities offer lackluster tour experiences delivering a monotonous blur of forgettable facts and course catalog summaries amid the backdrop of a tedious walk around campus, with quiet families in tow as tour guides point at each building on the physical plant. This building here, that building there.

So, if this is a critical inflection point in recruitment, it’s worth asking if your campus tour rises to the occasion.  Does it engage your guests’ hopes and aspirations? Does it bring them through a thoughtful, well-curated experience? Does it build a deeper understanding of your unique community?

Enter, the power of storytelling. I’m not just talking about telling stories, I’m talking about leveraging the age-old structures and devices of great stories that ignite the heart and the mind.

Use and infuse your brand

Let’s start with the big picture. Your brand should provide a strategic framework through which your story unfolds. Your brand tells the best story about you and distills the living breathing values of your community. Your brand messages offer a connection point through which your prospective student audience can understand you. It can also serve as the very framework through which you structure your tour.  Students should be able to look around and see evidence and examples of these values and beliefs  — which is critical to tapping into the minds of young people.

Transcend the tedious and use storytelling techniques to engage your audience.

In storytelling, there is a narrative arc — a tension — a crescendo and a resolution. That’s not to say that your tour needs to be a swelling oeuvre, but you should be thinking about structure, the flow of information, and how you can impactfully deliver content that leaves them feeling more connected. From the moment they sign up to the nostalgia selfie at the very end, are you telling them an interesting story or assailing them with a wall of facts? As important, are you including them in the story, and helping to see how they might belong as a current student? And finally, don’t forget that storytelling isn’t only a verbal exercise. Are there strategically placed visual cues and examples that build and support the story that you are telling?

Tell Strategic Stories

The stories you tell, and especially those that your tour guides tell, are what really bring your institution to life.  Deliberate, strategic infusion of great storytelling into the tour is essential. It’s how your guides will connect the dots for their guests and get people excited to think about the possibilities for themselves. Are the stories that your ambassadors tell supporting your larger brand framework message?  Are they prepared with great stories? Does your tour guide training take a moment to help them brainstorm great examples that illuminate the experience you are trying to convey?

As marketers, we know that stories are critical for connecting with audiences and doing so in a way that is authentic to our communities. Stories also inspire them and illuminate the lightbulb of possibility in their minds. Through applying some basic storytelling techniques to your campus tour, you are opening the possibility for deeper personal connection.

If you need help refining the storytelling of your campus tours, let’s connect! Looking for more enrollment tips? Check out Suzanne’s post on how Optimize Your Enrollment Funnel