How Higher Education Can Use the StoryBrand Framework to Tell a Better Story and Increase Tuition Revenue

First, let me get right to the point, then dissect it for a minute:

Every day your potential students wake up looking for people, places, and organizations that will help them accomplish their mission. To help them live the story they want to live.  There are things standing in the way, keeping them from fully living out that story, so they need someone to help them overcome those obstacles and give them a clear path to help them move forward.

That’s the Key to Donald Miller’s StoryBrand framework when it comes to higher education. This gives you a new way to connect with your students and clearly let them know, “We get it… and we can help.”

Higher Education matters, but it needs to change.

For centuries education has been a bedrock of a thriving society. It has been what has shaped us, made our world better and stronger, and it has outlasted any other institution our world has known (besides the family)…

But we must acknowledge that the world is changing and our modern culture has had some pretty major shifts over the past 20 years that is presenting some new challenges for higher education.

The world is seeing significant and fast changes in how people work, learn, interact, and communicate.

In education, however, we struggle to change direction and shift with these changes.

As a former Assistant Vice President and instructor for a University, I understand the unique struggles you might be facing. 

It’s not because of a lack of great leadership or faculty. Honestly, it’s just difficult to turn a big ship, especially one that has been around as long as higher education has. 

But we must. In order to not only survive, but thrive, the way higher education is doing things must change.

I believe there are two shifts higher education institutions need to make that will not only keep them relevant, but continue to allow these institutions to be the catalysts that shape and mold the future of our society.

1. Higher education institutions must change their mission.

A recent Gallup poll shows a change in the tide when it comes to young people today.

First, Young people aren’t as concerned about a paycheck.

Young people today want to change the world. They want to live with purpose.

This Gallup poll shows that today’s young people prefer a job with a purpose over a job with a great paycheck.

Your school can be that guide to help your students accomplish the mission they feel they are born to do.

In order to do that, however, it may be time to rally your faculty and staff around a new mission and then clearly define that mission. Understand the purpose of your institution. What problem do you exist to solve, and because you exist and solve that problem, what positive thing happens in the world?

Higher education institutions struggle to articulate a single purpose and mission because we often have many departmental silos causing us to compete for resources and significance.

However, if you can clarify three things in your mission statement, I believe you’ll be able to break down those silos and rally everyone to accomplish one mission… because they’ll know what that mission is and why failing to accomplish that mission cannot be an option.

The three key components of your mission statement should include clear and concise statements about:

A. What problem exists in the world that your institution will solve

B. How does your institution solve it

C. What happens in the world when your institution solves that problem

I believe the institutions that can do this will be the ones that impact the future of our world in ways we have only dreamed of.

This Gallup poll also shows another significant characteristic of the rising generation…

Young people prefer personal development over bosses and instructors.

Your students are looking for mentors. They desire faculty and staff members that will spend personal time with them, challenging them and pushing them to become more innovative and inventive so they begin to create new things and contribute better things to the world.

This brings me to the second shift higher education needs to make…

2. Higher education institutions must change how they communicate.

Old marketing efforts don’t work. For many of us, it includes the ones we’re teaching in our own classrooms.

Businesses around the world are seeing the power of narrative and storytelling over the past several years and they are finally learning to use that power in their marketing.

But the power of story doesn’t happen by telling our own stories.

I often have businesses and organizations come to me and say, “We need help telling our story better.”

My response is, “That’s not what I do. Your customers don’t care about your story. They care about their story.”

Here’s what that means for you…

You have to communicate to potential students WHY they should make YOU a part of THEIR story.

We’ve always invited people to be a part of our story. Here’s the problem… No one is interested in my story but me. We’re all interested in our own stories. Our own mission.

How can you help students get what they want? What is standing in the way of what they want? How can you help them overcome what’s standing in the way? What positive thing happens because they chose to make your school a part of their story?

The story you’re telling has to be about each student, not you.

So, how do you do what seems to be an impossible task?

1. Adopt the StoryBrand framework and create your new message.

2. Write your new mission statement that talks about the problem that needs to be solved, how your institution will solve it, and what happens in the world when it is solved.

3. Make higher education relevant again.

I believe the StoryBrand framework is the one framework that will help your institution consider how it might change its mission to not just survive financially, but thrive. I also believe it can help you become more effective in how you educate.

Here’s what you need to define:

  1. What do students want to become? (Remember, today’s young people want purpose first, paycheck second)
  2. What do they need in order to become that? (what ways do you offer an education that helps students fulfill their purpose and make a difference in the world?)
  3. What’s standing in the way of them getting what they want? (cost, opportunity, type of education ,etc.)
  4. How does that thing standing in their way make them feel? (hopeless, frustrated, like the life they hope to live is out of reach, etc.)
  5. How can you empathize with their problem? (we get it, we understand it’s difficult to…)
  6. What authority do you have? (How long have you existed, how many students have successful careers, what students can you highlight that have changed the world, etc.)
  7. Is there a clear plan to get started? (1. visit our campus.  2. apply. 3. begin the next chapter of your journey to change the world)
  8. What’s the one thing you want them to do so you can convert them? (For most it’s probably tour the campus or speak with an advisor)
  9. What negative things happen if they don’t get what they want? (they get a degree that won’t use, they don’t make the impact in the world they know they can, etc.)
  10. What positive things happen because they chose attend your school and get a degree? (they have the opportunity to build the life they want, change the world, etc.)

Those are the questions you need to answer in order to engage with potential students and make a significant difference in how your recruit.

If you’d like to work together, schedule a call and let’s talk about how we can make this year a pivotal year for your institution.

Three ways we can work together:

  1. Schedule a call and let’s talk about where you’re struggling and what your goals are.
  2. Let’s schedule an on-site strategy session with your key leaders (Click Here).
  3. Join me in Nashville for the next StoryBrand Live Marketing Workshop (Click Here).