Robert Morris University
Robert Morris University transitioned from a two-year, downtown business school to a suburban university with national reach so quickly and dramatically that perception — internal and external — often lagged reality.
Significant change took root a decade ago at RMU. More recently, a new president challenged undergraduates to broaden ambitions and raise horizons through engagement beyond the classroom and newfound global awareness. Next, innovative cohort and online graduate degrees emerged. Through it all, the RMU campus at large had not embraced brand possibilities inherent within the transformations (cultural and programmatic) happening before its very eyes.
Elliance felt that RMU had evolved into a model of a hybrid university — where traditional on-campus, four-year undergraduate students would co-exist with a wide variety of graduate and doctoral programs marked by smart new program design and delivery options. We made a case for brand elasticity — through tone, message, images, story — that would allow all aspects of the school to thrive and become mutually reinforcing. In so doing, we challenged the client to shed some skins — long-standing assumptions and narratives that Elliance believed to be outdated and more apt to diminish rather than enlarge the brand.
We dug deep into enrollment, financial aid and competitive studies to better understand how “right-fit” students would connect with messages across all touch points — interactive (web, social, mobile, search) and print. Extensive one-on-one interviews included current students, alumni, administration, faculty and board members. Historically prone to serial advertising campaigns and mixed messages, RMU took up our recommendation to embrace a more enduring brand position. Elliance showed the way forward from a somewhat regional understanding and expression of the school’s distinction to a more global brand and marketing platform.
While RMU set modest first-year goals (increasing web visits by 10 percent and web inquiries by five percent) Elliance sensed the potential for more. Our experience showed that overhauling site navigation, content strategy and conversion tools — especially when paired with search/social drivers — could significantly move the enrollment and alumni/advancement needles.
After one year, RMU reported:
- Undergraduate Admissions visitors increased 8-fold.
- Graduate Admissions visitors increased 16-fold.
- Online Degree visitors jumped 10-fold.
- Completion rate for web inquiries increased 10-fold.
- Online program inquiries jumped 43 percent.
- Advancement page visits soared 250 percent.
- The number of online donations tripled.