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Leveraging Psychographics in HBCU Higher Ed for a Tailored Approach

March 21, 2024
Leveraging Psychographics in HBCU Higher Ed for a Tailored Approach

Envision a realm where the figures on a spreadsheet transform into vibrant narratives, where numbers evolve into stories of ambition, culture, and community. This is the transformative power of psychographics. Going beyond mere demographics, psychographics delve into the essence of a student's life and aspirations, enabling the crafting of stories that resonate deeply with each individual. They provide a gateway to addressing the desires, goals, and values of students within your communication strategy.

Why are psychographics particularly crucial for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and how do they bridge the gap between institutional and student aspirations? The answers to these questions may hold the key to higher student yield, aiding you in meeting admissions goals.


What Are Psychographics? 

In the realm of higher education, psychographics constitute a qualitative metric based on the psychological characteristics and traits of both current and prospective students. These include values, desires, goals, interests, and lifestyle choices.

For HBCUs, psychographics serve as a compass, guiding outreach strategies that align with the motivations, values, and cultural nuances of potential students. Going beyond demographics, psychographics enable admissions and recruitment professionals to tailor narratives and engagement approaches that resonate with individuals within the communities they serve.


Psychographics vs. Demographics 

Understanding the difference between psychographics and demographics is pivotal in grasping the nuanced approach necessary in higher education marketing, especially for HBCUs.

Demographics offer a macroscopic view, focusing on quantifiable characteristics such as age, ethnicity, location, and socioeconomic status. While essential, these are surface-level attributes that fail to elucidate a student's internal motivations, beliefs, and aspirations.

Psychographics enrich demographic perspectives by providing a multidimensional understanding of prospective students. They uncover the "why" behind students' choices, illuminating their motivations, interests, values, and lifestyles. This allows institutions, particularly HBCUs, to tailor engagement strategies, creating meaningful connections with potential students by resonating with their intrinsic motivations and cultural sensibilities.


Do Demographics Supersede Psychographics? 

Given the emphasis on psychographics, does this mean demographics are less important? This is akin to asking a runner whether the shoe or the sock is more crucial. Both are indispensable.

Similarly, in crafting a messaging strategy, both psychographics and demographics are vital. Demographics aid in crafting broadly applicable messages, ensuring relevance to distinct groups. Psychographics, meanwhile, allow for a more personalized approach, customizing messages to align with individual interests, thereby ensuring communication is impactful and resonant.

The integration of psychographics and demographics supports adaptability and innovation in admissions strategies, enabling HBCUs to remain responsive to changing trends and needs within the student population. This ensures that messaging remains relevant, effective, and attuned to the evolving landscapes of student aspirations.


Psychographics Unique to HBCU Students  

Understanding psychographics is pivotal for HBCUs as they tailor recruitment, engagement, and retention strategies to resonate with the intrinsic motivations and values of prospective and current students.

Key psychographics prevalent among HBCU students include:

  • Diversity within Unity

  • Community and Collective Empowerment

  • Social Justice and Advocacy

  • Personalized and Supportive Learning Environments

  • Networking and Mentorship

  • Historical Significance and Legacy


Applying Psychographics to Admissions Campaigns

When constructing an admissions campaign aimed at increasing student yield, leveraging psychographic information ensures that messaging resonates. The content developed becomes a powerful tool for connecting with prospective students on a deeper level, helping them envision themselves as part of the HBCU community.

Utilize psychographics across various dynamic content mediums, including:

Storytelling through Student and Alumni Experiences

Share stories from current students and alumni who have forged a successful path through your HBCU. Their journeys, challenges, and triumphs can be incredibly relatable and inspiring to prospective students.    

Cultural Showcases 

Create content that highlights the richness of the cultural experiences available at your HBCU. This could include spotlights on cultural events, historical retrospectives, and features on cultural societies and clubs.  

Academic Excellence Spotlights 

Develop content that emphasizes the academic strengths and unique programs offered by your HBCU. Include insights from faculty and details on research opportunities, specialized resources, and support services.  

Campus Life Insights 

Offer a glimpse into campus life through videos, articles, or photo essays that capture the essence of the HBCU experience, including dorm life, extracurricular activities, and unique campus traditions. 

Interactive Q& A Sessions and Webinars 

Host interactive sessions where prospective students can engage directly with current students, faculty, or alumni. These sessions can cover various topics such as admission tips, academic advice, and insights into campus life.  

Social Media Takeovers 

Allow students and alumni to take over your HBCU’s social media accounts temporarily to share a day in their life, experiences during special events, or insights into specific aspects of their HBCU experience. 

Themed Blog Series 

Consider running a series of themed blogs that dive into specific topics like navigating financial aid, finding mentorship opportunities, or exploring career paths through the HBCUs programs and networks. 

Virtual Tours with a Twist 

Go beyond the conventional virtual tour by incorporating stories and insights that bring the physical spaces to life, linking buildings, and locations with historical significance, student achievements, and vibrant campus traditions. 


Benefits of Psychographics

The benefits of psychographics extend beyond messaging and recruitment strategies. They transcend generalities, allowing HBCUs to appreciate and cater to the uniqueness of each student's journey, enhancing the overall educational experience. Integrating psychographics into recruitment and admissions strategies is not just beneficial for HBCUs; it's essential for strengthening the community, enriching student experiences, and improving recruitment and retention rates.

Author Bio

Alex Moore, MBA, is a senior partner and marketing strategy expert at Stratagon. In true early adopter fashion, Alex is passionate about marketing technology, automation, CRM and using leading tech tools to create forward movement in business and in life. Connect with him on Twitter.