Marketing Transition, Step 2: Recruiting with Life and Death

A few years ago our nursing student count was down and the program was in danger of closing. The marketing plan I was asked to develop included radio, TV, billboards, a five-minute video and some print.

We spent two days in the Robert Packer Hospital where our nursing campus is located. On the second day, a nurse told us a baby had just been born a half hour earlier. I rushed to get the mother’s permission to film him. (Hey, what better present to a brand new mom than to make her baby a TV star?)
We took a lot of footage of a huge, burly, male student nurse bathing the baby. Then, at one point, the baby reached out and grasped the nursing student’s thumb.

“Zoom in as tight as you can,” I whispered frantically to the photog.

The finished spot was warm and fuzzy with lots of shots of people helping people. The highlight was the close-up of the new born’s hand around the huge thumb. Anecdotal evidence that it worked came in the form of testimonials from women. One high school girl at a college fair told me she watched TV just to see the commercial. “The picture of the little baby convinced me I want to be a nurse,” She said. An older woman said her “heart melted” whenever she saw this scene. It was something real, human and definitely not staged.

When forensics hit the college scene, thanks to the CSI shows, we jumped on it. We produced a commercial full of heavy music, bright lights, noise, chalk outlines of bodies, gunshots and blood spatters. Totally different than the nursing but in keeping with the feel of the TV shows.

It was, of course, not in keeping with the real field of forensics but sometimes the reality of fantasy wins out over daily life.

In both spots we told a story. The story of nursing is of helping people, helping them heal, helping them find hope, and yes, often helping them pass on. But in this case, the highlight was welcoming someone into life.

In forensics we told the story of death and how the living solve some of these mysteries.

Within three years, the ailing nursing program was full with a one-year waiting list. The chemistry program, which is responsible for the forensics component, for three years had the highest number of incoming freshmen in its history.

The message is nothing new. Every person has his or her own story. So does every program. So does every college.

And everyone loves a good story.

In the next post I’ll tell you why I’m moving away from this very successful form of advertising.

Today’s blog pick: Blogging to Fame 22-year-old Divya Uttam lives in India. While her English is sometimes a little tricky, she knows her stuff and has some very good advice on a lot of different aspects of blogging.


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