The digital revolution in the higher ed space is advancing at a dramatic pace. Consequences include more access and reach for individual universities, a higher degree of global competition and more options for students. 

As ever, the institutions with the best brands and marketing approaches will come out on top. 

Traditional marketing channels like social media, PPC, content marketing and eCRM remain staples of digital recruitment and brand building. However, the best strategies go beyond these simple tools to stand out from the competition with interesting, unique ideas. 

This week, we invested a little time to think up some great event ideas you can use to capture attention. They work best when you promote them using traditional channels like paid media. 

Let’s dive in.

Virtual open days

Perhaps this isn’t the most innovative idea on this list. However, it may well be the most important. The virtual open day is rapidly becoming a staple strategy for institutions looking to capture the offline university experience through online channels. But there are still institutions that haven’t yet taken up this useful tool. If your institution is still sticking to traditional strategies, it’s one you simply must consider. 

Open lectures and seminars

Open lectures have been a powerful tool for brand building in the higher ed space for hundreds of years, from the Royal Institution to Yale. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do the same online. 

The trick with open lectures is finding a subject that’s genuinely fascinating – something that will capture the imagination of your target audience. Work with internal stakeholders to unearth the amazing stories that are happening in and around your university. Then, use traditional digital channels to generate interest.

Digital quizzes & puzzles

We’re constantly surprised at how much people love a good quiz. Even the simplest brain teasers can attract massive attention online. The great thing about online quizzes is that they can be led by subject-matter experts at your institution. Whether it’s just a simple question and answer or a complex digital puzzle, they’re a great way of making your marketing more interactive.

Research showcases

Academics aren’t the only people exploring fascinating things at your university. Students themselves, from undergraduate to PHD level, often take on fascinating subjects that will pique the curiosity of your audience. Shine a light on the interesting work they’re doing with research showcases. Video works great as a medium here, but a well-written article can be just as powerful. Just make sure the subject matter doesn’t go over the heads of your audience.


Here’s a great one for computer scientists and digital creatives. Online hackathons require participants to build something interesting or innovative in a short space of time. They usually focus on a specific subject like conservation, health or security. You can run the hackathon across your university and open it up to the public, too. It’s a great reason to reach out to potential partners and begin building relationships.

Digital book clubs

Many special-interest clubs at your university, from model UN to artist collectives, can make great platforms for building audiences online. We chose digital book clubs here because they’re accessible to everyone and easy to set up. However, you can tap just about any campus society by equipping them with the resources they need to take their activities online. It’s a great way to show off the buzzing social life at your university.

Remember, to make marketing work you need to capture attention first. Finding the right story and telling it the right way should be your biggest priority. Look for the remarkable, the amazing and the beautiful in your university. 

Once you’ve done that, you need to tie the content to a specific course or department that you’d like to advertise. Make sure your course landing pages are easily accessible from your attention-grabbing digital platforms. By pairing powerful content with a conversion-focused funnel, you’ll have a winning combination for recruitment.